Dan’s first class was a senior-level defense class with an accompanying lab where he would be teaching hand-to-hand combat techniques and weapons.
These were the top students in Ioses order, the men and women that were hoping for appointments to state Iodex precincts. A half-dozen of them might even be good enough for the national team, and the exceptional one, possibly two, could be recruited for the Elite squadron. Dan’s first job was to select an outstanding student from this class for the one and only paid internship spot with the Elite squad for the duration of the school year. Earning that spot all but guaranteed a job after graduation.
Whispers hissed around the room as he made his approach, but upon his entering the students fell silent. He moved to the mentor’s desk at the front of the classroom and opened his laptop.
“Morning,” he offered the class.
“Good morning, sir,” most of the class replied.
He took in the nervous titters as he summoned and projected the syllabus onto the white board behind his desk. Placing a paper copy on the desk of a young man in the front row who looked rather downtrodden, he offered the kid a smile. “Mr. Strenton, would you mind passing those back for me?”
“Sure. Uh… you know my name… sir?”
“I know your name. Maybe more important than me knowing your name is the fact that Officer Portwood knows your name. We’re already impressed.”
“Thank you,” Jeff Strenton positively gushed as he stumbled out of his desk and handed out the syllabuses instead of simply passing them back. He looked like Dan had just saved his life. Dan studied him before going to stand at the podium. Jeff’s breaths seemed to come easier. Odd.
“Welcome to Senior Defense. As all of you know, this class also has a lab attached to it where we will be doing basic defensive and combat techniques. Only the top ten percent of this class will be considered for appointment to any Iodex anywhere.
“As I am, in fact, Mentor Dan Vindico, former chief of Elite Iodex, it is my recommendation alone that Chief Officer Landon Portwood will be looking for when he hires for any available spots in the D.C. Iodex office this year.” Nervous energy reverberated throughout the room.
“Now.” Dan felt every eye follow his trek back and forth in front of the white board. He sent an electric pulse from his laptop to the board to project an image of Fionna standing on the beach in a sundress with her hands around her bump. “For any of you who may have been living under a rock, my wife will be delivering my second child sometime in late November.” No one looked surprised, but several of the girls smiled sweetly. “What does this mean for you? It means that for eight weeks after my baby girl is born, I will not be here or available to you in any way. The highly-esteemed man that held this position before myself, Mentor Glenn Sullivan, the man that trained me, has agreed to come back and substitute for all of my classes during my paternity leave. Mentor Sullivan will be available for all questions, extra help, and to prepare you for your final exam, which will be given December tenth. Any issue related to this class or lab will be handled through Mentor Sullivan. What he says goes. Do not email me with complaints, questions, or really anything at all during those weeks as I will be hers,” he pointed to Fionna, “and most definitely not yours. Please be aware that if my baby girl decides to run a little late and does not make her arrival until the Academy’s Christmas break, then I will also be gone well into January.”
With a quick squeeze of his hand Dan switched the slide again. “My office hours are Monday through Thursday, afternoons and during lunch. Do not need me on a Friday, unless I am your very last option, you have exercised every other possible scenario available to you, and don’t even bother unless I really, really, like your work and you in general. Also, do not assume that I like you. There are very few people I will actually tolerate.”
Once the pencils stopped scraping across the paper and keyboards stopped clicking Dan continued. “Here is a paper print-out of every assignment due to me and when it will be due. Will I add to this?” he asked with a smirk. “Quite possibly, so I wouldn’t miss class, and missing more than five of the training labs will result in your failing both classes.” He tried not to chuckle as he visibly watched his ‘hard-ass’ reputation cement firmly in the minds of his students.
“Now,” he sighed, not really wanting to move on to the next requirement of the lesson plans, but the Academy mandated that the mentors offer a brief time during the first day of classes for the students to ask any questions they may have. “Any questions about this class, or any of the information we’ve gone over thus far?”
A girl in the back hesitantly raised her hand. “Um, Mentor Vindico, I was just wondering if there would be any study groups available for your classes,” she managed, though the question appeared to have robbed her of breath momentarily.
“I, myself, will not be offering any study groups, but if any of you would be interested in studying together then by all means go for it. There are three mentor’s aides assigned to Ioses that will be available for extra tutoring, and will offer study groups for anyone who may be interested, but you’ll have to contact them for dates and times.”
A studious young man who was wearing slacks and a tie hand shot up.
“You know my name, too, sir?” The kid looked only too pleased.
“I know four of my current students’ names. Take that for what you will. Impress me, I’ll learn yours, too,” he informed the rest of the class.
Thane St. Rhettert couldn’t quite keep the smirk from his face. His attempt to swallow down his pride was comical.
“Right. Uh, I was just wondering if you could tell us a little bit about running Iodex. You were the youngest chief officer in the history of the American Realm. We’d love to hear more of your story, I guess.”
Dan didn’t have to guess which parts of the story the class was most interested in hearing. “Long, sordid story, short.” He noted the disappointment in his students’ faces. “I went into Special Ops training my last year here at the Academy. I graduated head of Ioses Order with a 4.2 in my defense classes. I began in the Elite Iodex Squadron the day after I graduated as I already had a year of special training under my belt. I worked long days, long weeks, long months. I spent a vast amount of time training and working in Europe, both in Berlin and Paris extensively. Then returned to the States,” he refused to elaborate on why he’d returned. When he’d buried Amelia, he’d had no intention of doing anything at all except killing the man that had killed the love of his life and trying to die while he did it. “I took a little time off.” Because I was perpetually either drunk or high. “After that, Crown Governor Joseph Lawson made me Chief of Iodex, which is a role I served until March of this year.”
He was beyond certain that every student staring up at him knew the circumstances of his resignation.
A redhead in the middle of the room that was receiving nonverbal encouragement from a friend beside her blushed the approximate shade of her hair.
“Question?” Dan rolled his eyes.
“I was just wondering if we were allowed to ask personal questions?” The way she nervously bit at her lip reminded Dan of Aida. He choked back the retort that was forming in his mind.
“I suppose you’re allowed to ask anything you want. Doesn’t mean I’ll answer.”
“I guess we were just sort of wondering if you might tell us a little about your and Ms. Styler’s wedding in Waikiki.”
Chuckling, Dan smiled and tried to remind himself that he was supposed to be forming mentoring relationships with these kids. “Mrs. Vindico and I actually married on the South Shore of Kauai, not Waikiki. Kauai and Oahu are a good hundred miles apart. Don’t believe everything you read. It was very small and private, so I think we’ll keep it that way.”
Another young man’s hand shot up. His question poured forth without prompting. “Any chance we might get to meet Fionna?”
Dan ground his teeth and fought an oncoming glare.
“I’m a huge Angels fan,” the kid added hopefully. That was much easier to swallow than yet another one of his students lusting after his wife.
“She’ll be up here some. I’m sure she would be happy to sign autographs for any of you that might like one. I would, however, recommend you refer to my wife as Mrs. Vindico and not by her first name.”
“And Aida?” another young woman pled without raising her hand.
Wondering why they were all so fascinated with his personal life, Dan shrugged. “My baby girl is in school, so I’m not certain that you’ll see her too often, but I’d say at any Academy events we attend she’ll certainly be with us.”
“She’s adorable,” the redhead gushed.
“I agree, but that opinion will not get you extra credit.”
He fielded a few questions about what kinds of things they would be learning in their defensive labs and handed out the thumb-drives all assignments would be handed in on.
“I’m supposed to remind you if you need any help with your Venton laptops to see someone in the Tech Shop off of the main dining hall.”
“Or Strenton can fix it up for ya, for a fee, of course,” James Cantonfield, one of the other students Dan had researched for possible placement on the National Iodex team, teased.
“Dude, you had so much porn on that thing I used gloves to work on it.” Jeff Strenton seemed to erupt from the state of slumped dejection he’d quickly returned to after handing out the syllabuses. His shield pulsed like he’d been hit and he was set to retaliate.
“Kidding, man. I was just kidding. Geez.” James held up his hands in surrender.
“I don’t really give a damn who fixes your laptops so long as they work.” Dan brought everyone’s attention back to him and away from Jeff.
“Jeff really is the best. He used to work at the lab,” James offered kindly.
“Then by all means, seek out Strenton, but do offer to pay for his services. If you have your syllabus and your thumb-drives, you can go. First lab class will be Thursday. Eat well that morning. We’re going to be throwing punches.”
“You know he only got this job because his dad is the governor of Gifted schools,” a female voice carried back as the students drifted out of the room.
Is that what they think? Dan fought not to laugh. Nepotism. He’d been accused of that for half of his life. His father being on the National Governing Board and Dan’s penchant for pissing people off always made great fodder for dissenters.
When he was Chief of Iodex, he’d spent years fighting to prove that his father had nothing to do with his appointment. Now, he was old enough to know better. People would believe whatever the hell they chose to believe. Facts rarely mattered.
“Mentor Vindico?” Vivian Lamb, Chancellor Wilshire’s long-standing administrative assistant, poked her head into the classroom. “Dean asked me to stop by and tell you that he’s assigned you another class. He needs you to cover Katherine Bryant’s Sub-Freshman Energies of Defense class on Monday and Wednesday afternoons.”
“What? Why? I’m already teaching a full-load, and as department head I was assured I would only be teaching upperclassmen.”
“Yes, well, disappointment is the theme of the year it seems. Mentor Bryant has … taken a leave of absence … for a little while.”
“My wife will be delivering a baby in a few months and we just adopted Aida, my older daughter. I have responsibilities outside of this school. Tell Chancellor Wilshire I’m sorry, but I can’t take on another class.”
“The Chancellor wasn’t asking, Dan. You’re taking the class. I’ll let him know you were happy to help out.”