Illustrated by Kevin James Hurtack © 2006
by Chris H. Stevenson,© 2006
As he hurried up the steps, pangs of guilt stabbed at him for missing the first day of the semester. He hoped he wouldn't frighten the students. As a result of the vehicular
collision, his face looked like ten pounds of chopped liver. It was not going to be a good first impression. He would have to be especially charming.
The only thing original about The San Temecula College for Women was the land it was sitting on; the old wooden and concrete structure had been torn down years ago and replaced by foam-shot
dormitories (for the very rich), classrooms, and the main administration building. In the hopes of keeping with tradition, the campus was built using right angles and configured to surround a
plaza with grassy knolls and trees. The entire complex was rectangular in design, and there were no glidewalks or gently curving ramps to afford easy access to the second or third
floors. In keeping with tradition, the engineers and designers had incorporated real stairs, which meant much walking was needed to get from one point to another; it was a feeble attempt to
bring back some form of ambience. Even the parking lot was uncovered and left to the elements.
After checking in with administration and acquiring his lesson plans for the first semester, Mikus headed for his first-floor classroom twenty minutes early to get the jump on any
over-zealous students who might be inclined to sit in conference and stir up rumors, or sabotage the seating arrangements. But once he stepped through the door he realized it was too late, as
could be noted by a dozen females who had formed a small knot in the middle of the classroom, sitting on top of the desks, busily chatting away.
He took his station at the head of the class and looked around. Not much had changed from last year. Behind him, incorporated into the wall, was the large view screen; a small holo
pad for 3-D displays sat just to his right; a world globe nestled in the left corner; the remaining walls were a tapestry of amateur artwork left over from the preceding year. He could stand
at a small podium, or sit at a desk; both were equipped with master consoles, keys and switches.
His students were all female, mostly from the Red zip code, a little better off socially than his own station--the Blue. They were arriving for their first year of college, and if they
could be expected to graduate, it would take them four years. They had all started Primary at the age of three, having done so by virtue of their parents enrolling them early. It was an
elective decision designed to jumpstart some early careers in families that could afford the extra expense. Such young women were regarded as "squeens" by the regular public school system, a
denotation that they were somehow too elevated, or even pompous, to attend classes put out by a normal curriculum.
Mikus had spent ten years in the public system, and certainly wanted no part of what it had to offer. It wasn't that the scheduling and curriculum was sub-standard, it was the violent
and abusive attendees that disavowed him of the idea of ever returning. Those kids were an eyelash away from becoming full-blown teenonsters.
All of these students were similarly attired, wearing gray and red shifts, belted at the middle. Their pull-on gel-soled slippers were made for comfort and non-impact strolling. The
hairstyle trend was collectively short, an obvious attempt to distance themselves from the appearance of teenonsters, who always wore their hair very long and tied in ringlets and neck
wraps. Eye makeup was kept to a minimum to discourage distraction among the male staff. The overall impression was mild and subtle. Only their personalities shone through, glowing
and obvious. To record and participate in lessons, they all carried hand-held navigators--small keypads with popup screens. The navigators could be plugged into the desks and downloaded
to the main viewer.
He flipped a switch that activated his desk and podium displays. He typed some keys that flashed behind him on the large view screen. It was an introduction and an apology. It was
several lines long, written in easy bold font:
THE NAME IS MIKUS MARKUS, AND I'LL BE YOUR LANGUAGE INSTRUCTOR FOR YOUR FIRST YEAR HERE AT SAN TEMECULA COLLEGE. I REGRET THAT I MISSED ORIENTATION YESTERDAY. I HAD AN AIRBUS
ACCIDENT, AS YOU CAN SEE BY THE FACIAL CONTUSIONS. THOUGH I MAY BE A DAY LATE, I HOPE THAT I AM NOT A CREDIT SHORT. I'M AWARE THAT YOU HAVE ALL TAKEN PART IN ORIENTATION WITH YESTERDAY'S
SUBSTITUTE, BUT I HOPE A REPEAT WILL BE JUST AS ENLIGHTENING, AND I LOOK FORWARD TO MEETING ALL OF YOU, WITH SPECIAL EMPHASISON YOUR VOCATIONAL INTERESTS AND
LIFETIME PLANS. PLEASE BE SEATED AND TYPE IN YOUR DESK ASSIGNMENTS SO I CAN PUT YOUR BIO AND FACE WITH THE SEAT.
"But it's not even time yet." Somebody was already complaining.
Mikus ignored it and watched as several more students pushed through the door to stand and gawk as though they had to pass judgment on what they were seeing before it was appropriate to fully
enter the room and take seats. When most of them were seated, he counted twenty students in all, a little shy of his anticipated roster. He was missing five and it was time to
start. Those five might have ducked out, or become dissatisfied and chosen to switch classes at the last moment. To make sure, Mikus sent an instant message to the counselor's office and
received a reply that five had indeed quit the class and had been reassigned. The reason given for the transfers was attributed to "incompatibility with the substitute." Mikus wondered
what his first impression and reception would be like. If five had deserted the substitute, what were his chances of losing ten? Somehow the words 'compatibility' and 'charming' kept
entering into his thoughts.
He looked at his console viewer and said, "Is everyone keyed in yet?" They obviously weren't, and he wondered if they were reserving judgment or gauging his reaction. He decided he
would hit them over the collective head with a basket of flowers.
"You know, I don't like this system of formality and protocol," he told them. "Would there be any objections if we just freelance? To tell you the truth, I had a terrible row with
my girlfriend last night, and right now I don't feel like giving myself a brain sprain. Eh?" There came a dead…calm…pause.
A student looked at him quizzically. "Did you beat her?"
Another one dared, "Hah! Look at his face; shethrew it to him."
"That's a shame," said another. "I'll bet he ain't a half-bad chunk of matter." That got an uproarious response. Out of the corner of his eye, Mikus could see that his
seating roster lights were popping on, filled with the missing names. He discovered the name of the first respondent and decided to address her question.
"Candice, I can hardly take my lady in a fair bout, and find it best to avoid her when she's in one of those moods. Besides, I've never found it fitting to throw into the fair sex,
especially when I'm wrong. I just happened to be out of line and wrong last night."
With that small discourse, he'd just confessed that his woman was somewhat superior to him, that he could admit when he was wrong, and that it would never occur to him to strike a
woman. Yet he did not convey to them that he was alwayswrong. It had the decided effect.
A short, cropped-haired brunette who was packing some extra weight said, "Name's Roseland. You wanna know something? I can't finger it out either, why--"
"F.i.g.u.r.e," said the instructor, and took some notes.
"Yeah, that too. I don't know how to figure it out when Bobby Edwards don't get his way, he goes up and starts slapping on me, because when I don't feel like, well, you know, he does
and there ain't nothing I can do with it. See?"
"Oh, Rosalind, clap your yapper shut and listen to Mr. Marshal. He's not concerned about things of that nature with you and Bobby Edwards, in any degree, shape, and form. Are you,
Mr. Marshal?" That came from Mercedes.
"I'm Mr. Markus. Quite the contrary. Rosalind, I think it's a fair estimate that Bobby Edwards doesn't have your best interests at heart. How can a
boy stimulate your heart and mind with just his hands?"
"That's because he's out to stimulate other things that belong to her. Oh, I'm Sissy, by the way. And let me tell you something, Mercedes, Roseland don't have to clap her yapper
just because you've been saying so. Everybody knows you been chasing around with that gutter runner from the Brown zip, and not only that, but there's more, I think, if you know what I'm
"Now just one minute," said the very svelte and attractive blonde Mercedes. "I've been seeing Blithe, and it's not his fault that he has a home in the Brown. He sure ain't a gutter
runner, because you know why? He's learning how to be a bi-wheeler technician for Yamasaki. They make more credits than Slugs, I mean, cops, practically. But not as much as a
language mentor, I'm sure." The blonde looked affectionately at hermentor, Mr. Markus. "But please don't tell my parents," she added quickly.
"That's a profound utterance," said Mikus. "I deem that it is very unfair that one person should degrade another only because of their zip designation. What are credits, aside from
a means to an end, wot? Money cannot buy me love."
"I deem that too," said a cross-eyed redhead, who was so pale she might have been termed see-through. "I'm Poppy Hullings, and you all know my dad owns the Hullings Emporium over in the
Gold zip, sector nine, right off the Black Hawk expressway, and you can't miss if you're coming from east Nightshade, but if you're coming in from the north you have to--"
"Why don't you just chuck it straight out of your yapper," volunteered another, who introduced herself as Candy Flyer. "Get to the basic point, Poppy, if you want us to know how much
credits you have in your bank. I don't need a road sign to get to your dad's shopping mall. There's a few of us here that don't go screeching up in a fleetzine to get dropped off here
at San Temecula. We saw you this morning and it's not pretty impressive."
Poppy stood up. "I'm not trying to impress anybody, for your information. I suppose you'd like me to take the glidewalk when you know that I'm anemic to direct sunshine. If
I don't wear SunzBlock, I could go up like a piece of bacon in a vaporizer. I'm just as worried about saving credits as you are--that's because I get my SunzBlock at my dad's pharmacy
inside Hullings Emporium and I don't have to get a prescription from Dr. Breacher. Right now, we're having a four-percent-off sale on--"
"Who cares if you are having the sale of the millennium," said Candy, matching her stance. "You don't have to run around bloatingall the time."
"G.l.o.a.t.i.n.g," said Mikus, and made a few cyber notations.
"I'm not the one who's gloated," said Poppy. "I know for a fact, Candy, that your mom signed you up for the Dazzlin' Little Miss Contest three months ago, and that contest is for
younger girls than you! How did you think you were going grease that one? Were you going to give the judge a good rogering?"
"I wouldn't go there if I were you," said Candy. "I've never seen a boy around you with a smile on his face."
"Oh, yeah? Well I've seen them laughing at you!"
"Well, you two have got me crying," said Rosalind. "I think Mr. Mucous would like to think of something more construction. It's probably best if we got back on the list of who beat
Mikus interrupted, "Perhaps the topic of beatings is not apropos here. There were really no beatings. It was settled quite amicably. I abhor violence."
"So do I," said Sissy, "and I can tell you that anybody who believes in violence deserves a good smack. So I think the two of you should sit down and go frosty."
"Then we'd better change the subject," said Poppy, and took her seat, but not before Candy took her seat first.
"Maybe we should talk about something we know," suggested Candice.
"Yeah, like sex, maybe," said Sissy, knitting her eyebrows together.
Candy Flyer stood up and waggled her hand, but then she seemed to swoon for a moment. She cocked her head back and crimped her eyes shut. After she sat back down slowly, she said,
"I forgot…what…I was…going to say."
Mikus let them run their own gauntlet. He could tell that this class was somehow different. He made lightening-fast notes under the topic headings: SLANG, JARGON,
MISPRONUNICIATIONS, INTONATION, WRONG WORD CHOICE, DIALECT, and others. All the students seemed to waft out of the same cooking pot for females that hailed from the Red zip. He listened
attentively for another forty-five minutes before he interrupted them in the freelance throes of gender identity and sexual permissiveness. There were only two students who hadn't
participated in any of the discussions.
Mikus looked to the back of the room. "Uh, seat number fifteen…how do you pronounce your name?"
The young lady spoke something, but her head was down and the words were barely audible. Brown hair, petite and mousy looking, the girl raised her head slightly and tried to project her
voice. Mikus could discern that she had a cleft palate, which was highly unusual given the advances in reconstructive surgery, and the fact that she was enrolled at San Temecula--she had to
have come from a high-rent zip. He decided to pay her a personal visit, and walked to her seat to apologize for the wax that was clogging his ears, then asked her to try again.
"Maheena May," it came out, which Mikus interpreted to mean 'Melina May'.
"That's just fine," he told her. "Are you having fun yet?"
She nodded slightly, but kept her head down. Mikus returned to the front of the class, and as he turned around, the last quiet student spoke up.
"I guess I'm…ma… Regina ," said a plump girl who had black stubble for hair. Her earrings were so large they looked like small sea anchors. At once Mikus
knew her hesitancy came from a pronounced stutter.
"Well, I think that's everybody then," said Mikus. "I've come to the conclusion that I have an exceptional first-period, first-year college assemblage here. Not a bad seed in the
barrel, and I'm proud of all of you for initiating this freelance introduction in the round. As a matter of fact, I think we should have more discussions like this. Are there any
"Not in this court, your honor!" That was cute, and Mikus didn't know where it came from. He'd already drawn his conclusions about their literacy. They were a little
different from anything he'd seen last year, and certainly there would be more of the same for the next four classes.
Just before class ended, Mikus composed an introductory message on the rear main viewer. It was a basic greeting to the parents with a few lines about himself and his
qualifications. It closed by saying that he hoped that the parents wouldn't hesitate to contact him personally if they should have any questions regarding class assignments or other general
topics. He then told the students to plug in and copy the message to their navigators and deliver the message to their parents when they arrived home.
A few hands went up. Someone plaintively said, "Aren't you going to give us a home assignment?"
"Well…yes." Mikus had never received that query before during the first week of school. He'd never pushed the issue in the past. Yet here they were, faces upturned and
glowing, expecting an answer. He looked to the deeper reaches of the room where one special student shyly peered from her desk. A slight smile came to his face.
"As a matter of fact, there is a program or two that I would like you to download. There are two wonderful audio versions that you can listen to tonight. Review them and give me
your thoughts on them in the next class. Plug in and I'll key you the source."
All of the students eagerly plugged into their desks and received the input.
As the warning flasher ended the session, and the students filed out of the classroom, a few lingered behind and stepped up to their instructor's desk. One of them asked him, "Who's
Hans Christmas Andersen?"
"Hans C.h.r.i.s.t.i.a.n. Andersen," he pronounced. "You'll find out tonight."
He watched the retreating backs of his students as they left his classroom, then gave a great heaving sigh of relief and looked over some of his cyber notes. After checking their bios,
he noticed that the youngest student in his class was 26 years old and the oldest was 32. He typed in a few responses to the initial status report:
TENTATIVE CLASS OF: 2066
ATTENTION SPAN: Exceptional
EMOTIONAL REPONSE: Well-adjusted and normal
INTELLIGENCE QUOTIENT: Above average
OVERALL EVALUATION: Gifted
Mikus Markus shut the monitor off, and awaited his next class with anticipation. It was going to be a great year!
© Copyright 2016 Chris Stevenson. All rights reserved.