“The school. I don’t know how to describe it as I arrive. From the outside, it looks like a rectangle floating in space. But on the inside, there are only four types of spaces. The sleeping rooms, the mess halls, the hallways, and the fight room. The mess halls are on the ends of the rectangle, the dorms on the rest of the edges, and the fight rooms are lined up in the center.”
The school. I don’t know how to describe it as I arrive. From the outside, it looks like a rectangle floating in space. But on the inside, there are only four types of spaces. The sleeping rooms, the mess halls, the hallways, and the fight room. The mess halls are on the ends of the rectangle, the dorms on the rest of the edges, and the fight rooms are lined up in the center.
The outside of the school is pitch black, to not be seen. When the ship arrives after a month-long journey through space, I don’t notice it at first. I just see the regular endless void of space. Then, the loudspeaker crackles.
“We have arrived at the school of battle tactics. Please wait while the ship docks.”
Finally! I had gotten tired of talking about how are families hated us. They all give a kind (or not) gesture by letting us train at a school in outer space. It is weird. They are all mean to us, but then suddenly do a supposedly kind act.
As I walk out of that annoying ship, there are people. They assign us groups. They hand a device to each person that walks out. There is a beam coming out of it, and they tell us that the beam of light shows where you need to be at that current time. As I settle in my bed, I notice that they grouped us in eights. The hallways are tubes, and I bounded of the “floor” and caught on to the “ceiling.”
I wake up with a robotic hand prodding my arm.
“Wake up, Basil. Your presence is required in the mess hall. Get ready and use your device to find the mess hall.”
This startles me. How did I know that robotic hands woke you up each morning?
“I repeat. Your presence in the mess hall is required immediately.”
I start to get dressed behind the curtain that separates my bed and the room’s main space.
The robot keeps on repeating its sentence.
“Could you just stop!” I yell angrily.
“Okay. Be at the mess hall at 007030.”
I pick up my device and follow the beam.
“There is something to know about this place. One, and only one person, will come out of this school with knowledge learned about battle tactics. The rest of you? You did not win.”
The crowd of kids started murmuring, but it quickly stopped as the speaker raised their hand.
“At this school, there is a tournament. You go against everybody in your group, and then the seeding is over. The first place in the group fights the eighth. The second to the seventh and so on. The loser, well the loser… Death.”
So that’s why my parents sent me here. They wanted me to die. They just wanted death.
“The winner will come out of this place with 100,000 credits. During the seeding, you just have to get into the other’s gate to win. But when the knockout stage comes, it’s death. Go on, eat your breakfast!” The speaker puts a huge smile on their face.
Nobody starts eating.
“You only have ten minutes left to eat! Hurry up!” I start eating. Yuck! These dehydrated cereal cubes just taste like mush. I am hungry, so I eat.
The person I turned out to be fighting is one of the friends I made on the trip here, Rob. We both wanted to escape this “school.”
“We both want to escape,” I whisper.
“What happens if we both don’t try to go in the other’s gate?”
I was expecting an answer from a human, but a robot answered instead.
“The battle will go on for 0001051 after the start. Then, it will be a tie, both receiving 1 point instead of the two for the winner.”
“Well, I guess that solves it. Let’s tie!” I exclaim.
“Okay… ” Rob says.
We wait and we wait until the computer says something.
“The time for this match is up, but no action was detected. I will notify the principal of this bad behavior.”
We leave thinking to ourselves, Uh-oh. That was not a good idea.
As usual, that annoying robotic hand started prodding me to wake up. The “your presence is required” thing. I ignore it and continue to get my clothes on.
“Your presence is required in the principal’s office. You must be there by 006020. “
Oh. The principal’s office. Memories flood back to my head. That’s why I feel tired. It’s earlier than yesterday. I get dressed quick and still have some time left to surf the web. I find a simulator for the standard long-distance ship and play it a few times. It is a first-person view with the window having graphical ships and lumpy asteroids to dodge. I randomly mash buttons, and once I accidentally self-destruct the ship. I save the web ID to the computer and then move it to a personal memory stick to prevent the teachers from finding out.
I follow the beam sent out of my device and wait outside the door. Rob arrives close behind me.
The door opens automatically. The principal is sitting by their desk, which is made out of plastic. Wood is very rare these days, and that even includes genetically modified trees. We sit down on the inflatable chairs with thin plastic, to reduce storage space and make this huge rectangle smaller than it would have been.
“I’m sure that you know why you are here.”
Rob and I nod our heads.
“This school was built to have a competition to teach kids about battle tactics. Our strategy motivates kids to learn our curriculum.”
“We are just trying not to die!” I yell.
“I’m giving you a warning. Don’t do that ever again.”
I started to regularly practice on the simulator. Yes! I won level 10! I got the hang of it. Then, I look at the link more closely. They made this simulator. But I remember the cockpit of the ship, peering through the crack of the door. It looked exactly the same! They must have put in a few changes to the simulator to make it different.
I brainstorm ideas for changes. Locks! I needed to hack into the school computer system. I started to regularly find hacking tools and learn from the web.
It had been a few weeks, and there was a ranking battle every now and then, and most days were spent learning and brainstorming what tactics could be used in the battles. I learned, yes, but I mostly went to the hacking website and learned. I looked at the website again. All our information was being filtered. I would have to find a person who learned hacking before coming here. I sent a message over to Rob encrypted. He sent a message back, and we made a conversation:
I need somebody who can hack. Someone who learned it at home. We need to hack the school computer system.
Why not learn from the web? It would be much easier that way.
Our information is filtered. The only way to learn how to hack the website is with the school’s website. Get my point?
I’ll try to find someone.
I found someone! Their name is Lily. Let’s talk during dinner.
We meet up in the mess hall and quietly discuss what we all have to do. After dinner, we get to work.
Me? Figure out the escape routes, the time of escape, and so on. Lily? Hack into the system so we can get access to the actual web and access to the ship. Rob? Get more people to know and be ready to escape.
Lily was having a hard time hacking into the server. She almost made it, but the final password was known on another server. When she almost hacked the other server, it asked for a password that was known on the other server. She finally hacked in and could do anything to the school. We were ready do escape.
We sneak out of our rooms, and a lot of kids I did not even know came with this escape. Lily has locked all the doors of the teachers and changed the password to the server. The door to the ship is open, and we all pile inside. Just as the last kids start to board, the door to the principal’s office opens. The principal runs after us. The door to the ship closes. I am frantically trying to find the button that turns the ship on, but it is nowhere to be found! I try voice activation.
“SHIP, TURN ON!” I yell.
The ship responds. “Voice not recognized. Please try again.”
I hear outside the ship, “The kids are escaping! They are turning on the ship!”
“Voice recognized. Thrusters… fire.”
“Wo-Ho!” I exclaim.
“Okay. Oxygen level depleting. Oxygen level depleting. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. WARNING!”
“Oops,” Lily murmurs. “Quick! Someone get me a computer!”
She starts rapid-fire hacking.
“Oxygen levels restored.”
“Oxygen levels restored.”
“Oxygen levels restored.”
“Yes!” Lily exclaims. “I booted them out of the server!”
We fly to a habitable planet and start the first colony not in the solar system. We all become famous, and the teachers? Jail, of course! I become mayor, and we explore the other life forms living here. We are now known solar system-wide.