The eagle was nowhere to be seen in the halls, leading Arrow to believe that another instructor had taken the eagle aside with a reminder not to linger idly in AGATE facilities. Idle time was meant to be spent in personal quarters or in other mandated areas like the recreation hall, not in the hallways. One could get in trouble for idling too long where the instructors could catch you.
That worked out for him, and he reached his quarters unmolested. The assignment on his datapad took little time to complete - essays were easy enough for him, even in the abbreviated, punchy-style that the instructors preferred them to use - and he sent it off to languish in cyberspace until the instructor had the time to receive and accept it. The red-tailed hawk laid down in his sleeping tube, folding his arms over his chest as he looked at the ceiling.
He was...not quite anxious, because he had made a number of plans for the eagle. For Berrak, he revised his thoughts. The eagle had a name, and that was better to remember rather than the species. One dehumanized an enemy at their own peril. It made one think of them as other, as weak, as less than themselves, and that was a good way to open oneself to stupid mistakes. No, he had plans for [i]Berrak,[/i] so he wasn't anxious about their eventual meeting.
No, it was more of a feeling of wistfulness, he supposed. He would have preferred that they didn't reach this point, but it was clear that Berrak wasn't going to leave him be. The eagle was too interested in Runout, in getting his grades up through the physical exercises rather than the classroom ones. If he could get away with not doing them at all, he probably would have.
And that had to stop, because Arrow was [i]not[/i] going to waste his time doing someone else's work at the expense of his own.
He closed his eyes. Tomorrow would come soon enough. If he was lucky, he wouldn't have to deal with Berrak until the afternoon meal. If he was unlucky...
Well, he would deal with that, too. There were ways. There were always ways.
He was unlucky. Arrow opened the door to find the eagle waiting for him just outside, narrow eyes pulled to slits as Berrak glared at him.
"You didn't come out yesterday," the upperclassman muttered.
"I was busy studying. You were the one that started breaking the rules."
"Don't give me that. We agreed to a tutoring session."
"It must have slipped my mind."
As a matter of fact, it hadn't. Arrow had been taking care of his own studies for a change, ensuring that he was caught up on next week's lessons before they came around. He had given Berrak the - now obviously undue - credit that the eagle could take care of one night's homework without help. Apparently not.
He ducked his head, sliding past the other male's feathered arm. As soon as he was in the hallway, Berrak grabbed his shoulder. A little shift to the right kept the other raptor's thumb from landing on the sensitive nerves, keeping it from becoming a nerve pinch problem.
"You listen here. I need tutoring. You agreed."
"I agreed you needed it. Not that I'd provide it."
Arrow was rather surprised that he had managed to stay this calm. Inside, his heart was racing, his lungs rapidly expanding and compressing. He was all too aware of his own biology hitting the Fight or Flight stage, his talons clenching, or trying to, against the floor. His feathers were on the verge of rustling up, but not quite. The jumpsuit kept most of them flat, hid the fear-reaction from the other student.
[i]If he pushes, kick back, slightly high. Aim above the knee instead of under it; lock it, spin, catch the other knee as he stumbled forward, pull him down.[/i]
It was the easiest way to strike back when you weren't facing the other person and had this much distance. It would also put most of the eagle's vulnerable parts in easy range, and without much ability to defend them. If there was going to be a fight, it would be finished quickly, or so he hoped.
"You trying to put that brain to work with that beak? Don't start getting a smart mouth with me, Cadet."
"I don't have to try."
"...We're getting off-topic. I brought the datapad. Get that essay done by lunch, and then -"
"What was that, Cadet?"
The grip on his shoulder tightened. If it had been in the proper place, something that Berrak obviously believed that it was, then it would have been delivering agonizing pain to the nerve cluster in the shoulder. As it stood, the fingers were just pressing down on different spots with uncomfortable but not quite bruising force. He gritted his beak together that much tighter, taking a moment to collect his words.
"I am not writing your essay."
"You little -"
"I'll point out the information you need, but I'm not 'helping' you anymore."
"Because you don't want help, you want someone else to do it. I'm here to make it through AGATE, not get someone else through it."
"What about the whole comraderie thing?"
"Say that to me when you actually have something to offer. This is a meritocracy, remember?"
The shove that he'd been expecting came, and before the next blow could follow, he swung his leg out just as he was waiting for. Back, up, turn on the back talon. The impact that he expected followed, feeling the slight curve of the knee under his foot - almost too low, he realized, could have broken the knee rather than locked it - but kept turning. His spur caught the back of the eagle's other leg, pulled -
And then Berrak was down, beak slammed against the floor. As trained, Berrak was rolling to the side, trying to get up, but Arrow followed. Most Mod Buteo species were trained to fight with their legs if they weren't using a weapon, considering that their talons were some of their most dangerous natural weapons, and so the next blow was a pulled kick, one that snapped down just over the other raptor's neck. It wasn't hard enough to cut breath or break skin, but it was a hard, stunning blow.
Other students that had been making their way from quarters to classes paused, staring at the short fight between the pair of them. The hall was filled with students in jumpsuits, not yet dressed in their more formal clothes, and some were not quite fully dressed, zippers down along the chest here and there. The whole thing reeked of a dorm that hadn't quite come to life yet, and everyone had that same look on their face, wondering if they were still sleeping, if this was some sort of dream.
Arrow was one of them. He had expected a stronger fight, had thought that his face and chest would be a mass of bruises after the confrontation. As it stood, he was standing, but for how long was debatable. Someone was already slinking off, likely looking for an instructor. The red-tailed hawk knelt down, shaking his head.
"This is done. No more."
"Glad we understand each other, Berrak."
He stepped back, adjusted the slight fall of his zipper along his chest, and hustled along. He didn't want to be late for class, nor did he want to be there when the instructor finally arrived.
Class went well. The robotics essay was accepted without trouble or difficulty, despite the fact that he had all but phoned it in. Once the two hour lecture had finished, Arrow and his classmates were released to lunch and personal time for the next two hours. This would be the dangerous part of the day, the part where he was most at risk for Berrak striking back, and he felt like his adrenaline was at an all-time high as he left the classroom. While he had enough self-control to not have his head whipping side to side like a mad chicken, he was still more than a little concerned about where the other student had gone. The eagle would not take this 'disrespect' lying down.
Hoping to spend at least part of the time in one of the education spheres again. If he could be sure that there'd be one waiting after lunch, he would have taken himself to the cafeteria first and then gone to the spheres afterward, timing his use of them so that he was due in his next class just as his session ran out. Considering that the next class was Runout practice, he doubted that even Berrak would be able to keep him from getting there. For that matter, the eagle wouldn't want to miss it, just to show up everyone else in the one thing that he was good at.
But considering that the spheres filled up as soon as they did, he would just have to risk a late lunch and the potential of being ambushed there. He walked down to the sphere chamber -
Only to find that Berrak and two other eagles were waiting for him just outside the room. They had carefully placed themselves just outside of the general line of sight of the instructors, which meant that there was no chance of someone interrupting anything that broke out in the hallway without an extensive amount of noise being made. Considering the way that Berrak was looking at him, he doubted that he would get the chance to make much.
They were walking his way, too, which meant that retreat was off the table. Even if he could outrun them - a debatable outcome, at best - he would still have to deal with the possibility of being ambushed in other locations. The best he could do was take it, and hope that he gave enough in return that they wouldn't want to try again.
So, Arrow walked forward to meet them. Berrak blinked, hesitating, but his bully-boys did not. The eagles advanced on him, reaching for his arms -
[i]Get it right. Get it right![/i]
And Arrow struck quick with both hands, a quick hit with the solid, hard spots on the sides of his hands just under the arms. He obviously managed to hit a nerve point, because their limbs went down, limp and numb. They groaned in obvious discomfort, slumping back and stumbling. He followed it up with a shove, keeping them off-balance as Berrak finally got his nerve back.
"Doesn't have to be this way, Cadet," the eagle said.
"You're making it this way. Not me."
"All you gotta do is what you said you'd do."
"I never offered to do more than help."
"Yeah. And this is helping. Helping me pass, and helping you stay out of the informary."
"Neither of those things would be a problem if you did your own work."
"You think Runout is easy, Cadet? You gotta put everything there. I'm good at it, but if I don't practice -"
"That's not my problem."
"It's gonna be."
The other eagles were already recovering from the nerve-punches, which meant that he hadn't hit them spot on the way that he'd hoped. If he had, they would've been dealing with useless arms for the next day. Instead, they were already starting to shake feeling back into their digits.
Bad, bad, bad. Now they knew that he could do it, which would mean less openings. He'd spent an advantage too early.
He took a step back, leaning towards a wall to keep it between him and the bullies so they couldn't get behind him. That was one thing he knew; never let someone get a shot in from behind, because it would hurt a whole lot more than one from the front. He edged along it as Berrak and his thugs followed him along, the eagles waiting for something.
"Last chance, Cadet."
"I'm going to pass."
Berrak nodded, and the eagle on the left punched him. It was fast, firm, and it hit him so hard that he slammed against the wall. Arrow hunched forward over the limb, gripping the eagle's wrist tightly as he vomited air, gasping for breath as he gripped it tighter and tighter.
[i]Hold the arm, can't punch me again, not in the same place.[/i]
"Just say you'll do it, Cadet, and this stops right now."
[i]He needs this more than he needs me humiliated,[/i] Arrow knew. Not that it was much in the way of comfort right at that moment, but it was still a little satisfying. Nonetheless, he groaned, shaking his head.
Another punch, this time from the side, just above his kidney. The pain was sharp, sharper than he expected, and he stumbled to his knees. He rolled sideways as the first eagle pulled his arm back, shaking his hand.
"Little guy almost clawed me..."
"He's a persistent little guy..." Berrak shook his head. "Guess he's gonna have to learn what happens when you don't know when to quit."
"What's going on here?"
Everyone went still, despite that leaving one of the eagles standing on one foot. Grimacing through a lack of air, Arrow looked past the three eagles to the instructor just past them. One of the instructors-on-duty, moving to take up an assignment, from the lack of permanent insignia on his uniform, but quite a bit better than nothing. The red-tailed hawk huffed, groaning as he tried to get a good breath of air without throwing up.
"Nothing, sir," Berrak said.
"Looks like you're trying to turn him into nothing. Report to debriefing," the brown-feathered hawk said.
"But sir -"
"Debriefing, Cadet. Now."
The eagles departed at a rapid pace, beating feet down the hallway. When an instructor told you to move at speed, you did it. Arrow took some slight satisfaction from that before taking too deep a breath and feeling the impacts on his chest and side again. His stomach didn't feel great, either.
"Can you breathe, Cadet?" the hawk asked as he walked up.
"Then do that. Sit up when you're able."
There was no gentleness there, not that there was any expectation of it, either. AGATE instructors weren't the sort that tended to be gentle. Arrow took a few more short breaths, then deliberately breathed a little deeper, conditioning himself to be used to the discomfort before slowly dragging himself to a seated position. A painful twinge went up his side from his kidney, and he grabbed for it, holding his side. Nothing busted, hopefully, but that punch had been harder than he thought.
"What did they want?" the instructor asked.
"Cadet Berrak asked for 'help', sir."
"His homework, sir."
"I see. And you said no."
"That's correct, sir."
He would have been surprised that he needed one, except for the fact that the whole system was run as a 'meritocracy.' And one of the merits of the system was 'leadership'. If you could convince someone to do the work for you, if you had the force of will or the ability to apply force to coerce obedience, then that was still a useful skill. It was down to those being bullied or forced to find a way out of it, just like your soldiers in the field would find a way to sabotage you if you tried doing it in the real world.
"I refuse to be led around by a bully, sir."
"And he's not going to use me when I'm not assigned to him, sir."
"Hmmm. Acceptable reason. Can you stand?"
"...I think so, sir."
The red-tailed hawk eventually managed to drag himself upright, though he had to lean against the wall behind him for proper balance. Not comfortable, but not uncomfortable, either. He shook his head, took one more deep breath to make sure that he wasn't at risk of throwing up after the hard blow to the stomach, and finally managed to put up a salute.
"Sorry for the delay, sir."
"At ease, Cadet." The hawk nodded. "I'll be having a chat with the other three in a moment. Do you have any proof that they wanted your 'help' to corroborate this?"
"Cadet Berrak's submitted essays in the last few days are identical to my writing style. Compare the two most recent, and then compare them to the previous ones, and you'll see, sir."
"Was that intentional?"
"You wanted him to get caught?"
"I didn't care, sir. Then he decided to push harder, and I wanted it to stop, sir."
"I was tired of someone else getting credit for what they didn't deserve, and I didn't want to spend my life propping up someone else. I have enough work of my own to get through."
"Good answer. You are released. Enjoy your personal time, Cadet."
The hawk gave him a salute back, and then left, following the path of the eagles. Arrow watched him go, then slumped down a bit, hugging his middle. He really didn't feel well after that, but it was at least as much disappointment as it was anything else. Self-defense obviously required more than one quick, self-taught lesson to be applicable. He had managed a trick the first time, but he should have run after disabling the two allies Berrak had brought.
Next time - and there was going to be a next time, he was sure - he'd have to be better prepared. Particularly once he started Runouts.
Summary: The Academy Days of Arrow Quincy Vershaft continue, with the bully from last time paying a new visit.
Tags: No Sex, Sci-Fi, Bully, Conflict, Fight, Academy, Bird, Eagle, Hawk, Red-Tailed Hawk,
A sequel to the original Academy Days story, picking up where that one left off. Arrow has to figure out how to deal with the bully who wants him to do his homework.
Written by Draconicon.