The Outsider

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 13 : First Day at School

The first day of Military Training was bad. But it did improve a little after the orange drink. She managed to finish a lot of the revised exercise regime she was given …

And she was fine till she was taken to Group K (Or was it called Team K). Every person in the team was a huge and well built, muscular professional Military Cadet! Compared to them, she looked tiny, thin and … unfit.

She had one look at her ‘Teammates’ and knew she was in trouble. Just to keep up with them would be a nightmare.

By the time her training schedule ended at 9 am, she was exhausted and wondered how she would manage the rest of the day. She really felt like she should go back to the Dorm, have a shower and sleep. Or maybe, even sleep in the shower…

But of course, that was not an option. Her Military Instructors already thought she was useless and unreliable, the last thing she wanted was for her tech professors to think likewise. She ran with the rest of her group to the Trainer Station and picked up her Sixth-Sense. She wore it and then turned away, trying to figure out where the Mass will stop to take her to the Academic Cluster.

As she stood there, a massive hand clapped her on the shoulder, almost making her loose her balance. It was one of the girls in her group, Piggon. “Hale! We are going to have breakfast at the Military Complex Mess. It’s right there, close to the Tech Buildings in the Academic Cluster. Come with us, you will save time too.”

Dusk nodded, happy to get help. “What time do your classes start?”

“Our first today is at 10. On the days it starts at 9:30, it’s a problem. Today we have enough time. Come.”

Dusk ran after them, wondering if these guys and girls ever walked like a normal person. They were always running. She wondered if Piggon would consider carrying her … after all, it would be hardly any effort for that girl!

As they ran to the edge of the Parade Ground, Dusk saw 4 hover-vehicles coming down the road at a sedate speed. These were like buses, but they didn’t have walls. Instead, the sides were open. There were rows of seats with handles for those who wanted to stand. Some of the Cadets were already standing next to the road. The vehicles did not slow down. The cadets just paced themselves and jumped up to the vehicles. After the vehicle cross a certain marker, it sped up and zoomed off towards the Academic Cluster.

Seeing that the Cadets were all jumping on the moving bus, Dusk felt unsure and slowed down. But Piggon turned back and pulled her forward. The second vehicle had left and the third one was coming their way.

Piggon saw Dusk looking doubtful and suddenly turned to one of the Cadets with a laugh. “Slider, pick her up.”

A huge cadet who was in front of Dusk, suddenly turned (without slowing his running pace), banged into Dusk and picked her up like a gunnysack on his shoulders, turned again, ran next to the hover-vehicle and jumped up with everyone else. Then he put Dusk down, steadied her and gave a wide grin.

For a moment, Dusk wondered whether everyone here was mad. But then she was grateful that they helped her up.

Piggon was laughing at her reaction. “Civilian, you need to learn to get on to these vehicles. It’s a part of the training skills. That is why they don’t stop. I don’t think Slider will pick you up every time.”

“Oh, I will! It will give me extra credit at the exam if I can pick up a buddy and board the bus”

The gang laughed and hooted at the idea, and a few others wanted to try it next time. Dusk had the next month or so booked for the ride. She shook her head and joined in the laugh. At least they did not dislike her at sight.

The strange hover-bus took them to the Academic Cluster in less than 5 minutes, which was a massive time-saver for Dusk, who was in a major rush anyway. She knew they had to get off the running vehicle and managed to do it on her own. Then she went with the group to breakfast at the mess.

After breakfast, she realised that she had made one major mistake. She didn’t get clothes to change to after the training. Going back to the dorm to get clothes was out of question at that time. She had barely time to get to her classes. As she lamented and cried about how her professors would have a bad idea of her, her new friends found it to be strange.

“Hey, no one looks down on Military Uniforms in the University. So, don’t worry.” One of them pointed out.

“And there are quite a few from Military Studies doing special courses in tech. So, they are used to seeing us there. You will not look too out of ordinary.” Another pointed out.

“But look at my uniform! It looks so dirty! I fell on the ground a few times and then I am sweaty, how can I sit in class like that?”

“What? That’s simple to solve. Water-Stream Guns!” Slider shouted.

By then they had almost finished with their breakfast, so everyone quickly put their plates into the disposal slots and dragged Dusk out with them. A few minutes later, they reached a huge room on the ground floor, which was full of vehicles. They went to an empty area, one of the cadets passed a command to his communicator and suddenly walls sprung up from all sides giving them an enclosed room.

They pushed Dusk to the one corner of the room and picked up piped nozzles that were attached to the walls. Before Dusk could figure out what was happening, 8-10 high pressure jets of water hit her from 3 sides, drenching her, but in the process, cleaning the clothes of all the dirt. Even her face and hands got cleaned. As she spluttered in rage at their action, the water jets stopped after a minute. There stood a clean but very wet Dusk.

It was obvious from the looks of the Group that they had done it before. She did not know whether she should be furious or not. But she was still wet and couldn’t possibly go to class like that.

“Ok, and what about this?” she asked pointing her hands to herself.

“There is a solution for that also!” Piggon dragged her and the others followed. The walls had gone as soon as all the nozzles were replaced on the wall. They took her into the bathroom on the same floor. Someone threw her a thick fabric dressing gown and ordered her to change in one of the shower stalls.

When she came out, they grabbed the clothes and threw it into a micro-wave furnace. Dusk was worried it would burn (you can’t cook clothes!). But instead, the clothes just steamed as they passed from one end of the furnace to the other. They came out pretty hot and partly dry. They were passed through the furnace 3 times and at the end, it was all dry, though more than a little wrinkled.

She changed back quickly, thanking them for their help.

“Don’t do it again, this is something we could get into trouble for! But we can’t let a fellow member of the group suffer for no fault of her own. It’s the creed of the Military that we support one another.” Slider told her.

As they walked up to the exit where they would part ways for the day, Piggon told her, “Dusk, this group, like few others in the Military Study, are from Rural Areas, just like you. We are not the Rich and Nobles. We understand each other unlike those snobs. Perhaps, that is why the trainer put you with us.”

Dusk smiled, waved and ran to Tech Building 2 to her first class.

Her first class was with a professor who was covering basics of computer architecture.

She went into his room and found a message asking her to come to Computer Hardware Lab 3. She found the way and ran.

Dusk reached her class 5 minutes before the allotted time. She stepped in and looked around. Well, it was nothing like what she had seen in her student life before. While she knew the university facilities would be different from those in her hometown, the arrangements were still astonishing.

Computer Hardware Lab 3 was a broad room with seating arranged in the form of Concentric Semi-Circular rows, with the Professor in the center. Each of the rows away from the center were at an increasing height, to enable the student to be seen by the professor. The room did not have a normal study desk or an auditorium arrangement. Instead, there were workstations. The workstations were positioned in alternate spaces. The first row had 8 workstations with gaps between them. The second row had 7 workstations, each placed in the gap between the workstations in the first row but located one row behind, the third row again had 8 workstations placed in the gap between the workstations of the second row.

The only problem with the layout was that walking was difficult as you had to navigate zigzag between them.

There were overhead conveyer belts going across the room. There were automated arms above each workstation to pick up the items from the conveyer and place them on the desk. Most of the desks were empty. But some of them had students who seem to be getting ready for class. Their workstations had computer parts lying all over. Some of the desks were getting parts from the conveyer and laying it on the desk. Most of the desks were still empty.

As Dusk stood at the door looking uncertain, some of the students looked up. Few students walking in at that moment also looked at her. They had attended class for 2 weeks but not seen her, so they were naturally curious why she was there. She attracted everyone’s attention being in a crumpled Military Uniform.

One at the door stopped and asked her “Looking for someone?”

“I am joining the class of Professor Elton”

“Oh! How come? You are a couple of weeks late. Did you transfer your course?”

“No, I arrived just yesterday”

Some other students clustered around her.

“I did not know late arrivals were allowed at Uni-Viva. The Deans are so strict!”

“Were you unwell?”

“Are you in Military Tech?”

“Which family are you from?”

“Hey, what’s your name?”

Questions came to her in rapid succession.

“I am Dusk Hale. I am from Longburn, Arcadia. Not in Military Tech, just voluntarily taking some training so they gave me the uniform”

“Arcadia??” Some even looked up Longburn on their communicators to find out where she was from.

“Your dad’s with the Arcadia Government or something?”

“Does he own Desert-Arcadia, the Juice Brand? Love those!”

“No such luck! My family owns a tavern there.”

The reaction of the students around was just as she had expected. There were either puzzled or surprised. And the attitude and level of interest changed. However, at the same time the professor entered the room, so everyone hurried to their workstations.

“You are Dusk Hale?” he asked seeing her still standing uncertainly.

“Yes Professor.”

“Ok, we need to assign you a place to sit. Cecil!” He called to one of the boys on the front row “You move to one of the workstations at the back. Dusk Hale will sit in this place”

Cecil immediately protested. He had managed to take a front seat which he preferred and was now forced to move to the 4th or 5th row. However, the Professor insisted he needed her in the front as he needed to supervise her, as she had catch up.

Cecil gave Dusk an angry glare and instructed his communicator to program the conveyer belt to move his stuff to the appropriate desk in the 4th row.

Dusk came to his desk and said softly, “Look Cecil, I am sorry. I did not want to take your desk away. I didn’t ask for it. In 2 weeks, I will be up to date with the class and there will be no reason for me to be in the first row, I will be more than happy to swap back with you.”

But Cecil just gave her a dirty look and said, “Shove it, don’t bother me.”

It seemed other students were also of the opinion that it was unfair that someone who joined late should be given the good place. And their looked at her with hostility. Someone muttered an obscene remark which made the other students laugh and the Professor turned to them, asking them to shut up.

“So, we are going to continue with the project build – We need to completely build 1 basic desktop computer, non-integrated. You all have the design specs which were given and explained last week. Now, you can build on the same design or you can modify your design. Remember that in the next round, we will be doing a Utility Computer, which is mostly non-integrated, but the basic design given to you is not going to work for it.” The professor started speaking.

“If you want to re-use your project, then you need to modify the design keeping in mind what the requirement and design spec for a utility computer is. For those who have not seen a utility computer, I have put the design requirement and some images on the shared access drives. Anyone who wants, can go to ‘Humanity Study Building’ basement where the main power control station is and take a look. The specifications we have taken match what is operating there. It is a live system, so you need approval of shift supervisor to go there and anyone doing serious damage to it will directly get an ‘F’ Grade in the first 2 parts of the course work. Give me names by end of the class to send to the supervisor.

“It is not compulsory to make design modification and successfully executing existing designs at each stage will be enable you to pass this course. However, additional marks are given for design changes and the design quality is a part of Permanent Records of your university work. Further, this class is meant to understand and learn hardware design and therefore basic purpose is to understand design and advance aims is to learn enough to improve and make your own.

“Most of you know all this, but since we have a new student, I am making this clear, especially for those who did not pay attention earlier. Everyone study the design specifications quickly and I will answer any questions you have.” The professor directed everyone to start their work and called Dusk to his table.

“What is your level of knowledge in Hardware Architecture?” He asked

“Sir, I have not studied Hardware Architecture before. It was not a required subject in my college, in addition, we did not have the resources either. So, all this is new to me”

“But you studied in Regis. How can they not have resources?”

“No Sir, I studied remote. From Arcadia.”

“Your marks are pretty good for a remote student. I am surprised.” He said as he reviewed her file and transcripts again. Then he looked up thoughtful and said “You have a lot to catch up with. Everyone here is from large colleges and they all have done hardware courses. You seem to have focused on programming, algorithm and AI. The closest I can see is component design theory. You never worked on physical systems?”

“Only time we got to physically handle the hardware were when some new equipment came in and the technicians were happy to let us assemble them so that they didn’t have to travel to our town. And in case of breakdowns, me being the only tech student was given the task to identify the problem and repair / replace. I have done basic handling, though when some circuits were damaged but minor enough to be done locally. We did not have a fabrication system”

“Ok, then let us start with the basics for hardware. You know about the nature of circuit design and the silicon-based electronics? Let’s start from there…”

The session was for two hours, from 10 am to 12 noon. During the time, Professor Elton spent most of time taking Dusk through the basics of electronic hardware. In the middle, while she read through some of the documentations, he went around to supervise what the other students were doing. As the session came to an end, he asked Dusk to stay for another half hour more as he needed to complete the instructions. Dusk checked her schedule and saw the hour would have been her lunch time. But she decided she would manage.

“One reminder, the design modifications you use should be done by you alone. You cannot use the design specifications provided by anyone else, whether friends from previous classes or from your family or their employees and consultants. Anyone one found doing such a thing will be considered unfit for this class and will be dismissed permanently. And if anyone has any ideas that they can fool me, one – I have placed design faults that won’t be there in what you get from professionals so I will know it is falsified. Second, you will submit your wearable for inspection by AI every day to search for external design formats. Third, every incoming message and file is being scrutinised to locate any design that will be used by you students. So, don’t try anything.” Professor Elton announced to the class as they packed up to leave for the next course.

Half an hour later, Dusk completed her own tasks, thanked the professor for his time and left. Since all she had was the Sixth-Sense, she did not take time to pack up.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.