Train Of Thought
Word Count: 1932
[Told from the personal memoirs of Harket Morten, circa. 0.5 BBY]
That morning, when Professor Fleetwood was late to class, I knew he would need to find some way to reassert his authority. A highly qualified professor at a prestigious university being late to his own class? The jokes wrote themselves.
"Class starts at 9 a.m., Prof! Rise and shine, sleepyhead! Up all night partying?"
Those numbskulls antagonised him for the full lecture, and for once, I can't say I blame them. A little notice doesn't hurt, right? But alas, they took it one step too far. I could see the grumpiness turn to conceit as we reached ten minutes until the end of class. People had begun to slowly pack up their things when he wasn't looking, so they could dash out the door as soon as it hit 1500 hours and get as much free drinking time as possible.
"Oh!" He had said, "I almost forgot. I was going to do this at the start of the lecture, but I was late, now, wasn't I?"
The tension in the room could be cut with a knife. I could actually feel my classmates tensing up.
"First thing tomorrow morning, I'm expecting everybody to hand me a five thousand word essay on starfighter structure and how its variations can affect fuel economy," he told the room, a grin creeping its way onto his face. A cacophony of groans waved through the lecture hall. I was rather content.
"The Geek doesn't seem too fussed, does he?" I heard from behind me, followed by the reply, "Not at all. Another opportunity to kiss the Prof's ass, isn't that right, Geek?"
"Too bad Teach can't stand to look at his degenerate puke-green mug!"
Oh yeah, I should clarify. My classmates hate homework. The one thing they hate more than homework, however, is me. Why? Er... I don't know, actually. They call me the Geek, sometimes shove me around because I'm too scrawny to fight them. Not surprising, really. I got into the school on an advanced placement when I was fourteen on account of me being far ahead of my level, so I'm quite a bit younger (and therefore smaller) than all the other guys. Don't be fooled, though, I'm not entirely helpless. I get my victories through somewhat unconventional means. I'm not too bad with software, so I can mess with them pretty creatively. Ringo just about broke my jaw when he found out it was me who had altered the code in his refresher to flush waste up the way rather than down the pipe. That one was worth the pain, I can't lie. Anyways, where was I? That's right, I was telling you about those cu— guys in my class.
Later that night, I was in my room, sitting at my desk grinding out that paper for the morning, as well as a billion more. You see, as much as I did what I could to get payback on those assholes, there was still a reason they sat higher on the social hierarchy than I. From day one, it was made perfectly clear that should I fail to convincingly fake their assignments for them, I would have the holy hell beaten out of me. This was followed by an example— they beat me within an inch of my life. Nothing new, of course. My mother and stepfather were the kind of parents who used violence to create an atmosphere of fear at home. Even before I was attending university, I would flinch at sudden movements, and nobody could fathom why I was so jumpy. Part of me always regretted that I never killed my stepfather while I had the chance. I'm not the violent type, but if I could ever bring myself to harm another person without remorse, it would be him. If I were to ever have kids of my own, they would never know pain at the hands of those they love. It's wrong. No child should grow up like I did, expecting physical violence for making honest mistakes. My stepfather left the picture when his violence and verbal abuse turned on my mother, rather than me. He never felt remorse for what he put me through, but she was where he drew the line.
I had music playing to pass the time and took a moment to appreciate my favourite verse of 'Scoundrel Days' by D'raghan Gol. My enjoyment was drowned out by even louder music coming from above. Ringo's dorm, I thought. As usual, the night before a big essay was due, they were partying. Not that I cared if they were throwing their education down the drain, it made precious little difference to me. However, it did distract me from doing my work, which was just unfair. Yeah, I sound like a tightly wound, sexually frustrated weirdo, I know. That's because I am one, so leave me alone.
Now, I had an essay to finish, but lacked the nerve to go up there and tell them to keep it down. The solution? Get the party shut down. Of course, I could have just headed down to the dean's office and dobbed them in, but that would make me a geek and a grass. So instead, I went over to my terminal and booted up my port scanner. They were using a stereo system hooked up to a terminal to play their music. Their jury rigged wireless connection left a vulnerability which I could exploit. Using a series of legally-grey slicing techniques, I found myself with remote control of their computer. They had a holonet tab open with a radio application running. I entered the shortcut to open a new tab, and so began phase two of my rather nefarious plan. I searched the holonet for some of the nastiest, most distasteful holo-porn available legally. As I clicked play, I remotely cranked up the volume on their stereo system. The Galactic Polytechnic Institute of Engineering and Science, a famously renowned place of learning and academia, known galaxy-wide for it's highly rated elite standard of education, was filled far and wide with the unmistakable wet schlopping and schlapping of a gaggle of Mon Calamari having a grand old time together on dry land with various implements and techniques legal and otherwise.
The rapid stamping of feet above my head told me that the party was dispersing, everybody keen to be a million miles away from that place once campus security showed up to start asking questions. However, my attention was drawn away from that amusing notion by something I had never seen before. On the institute's network was a new entity, something heavily encrypted, more heavily encrypted than anything there would possibly need to be. Now, I agree, in this case it's probably best to just pretend you saw nothing and go to bed, especially being on thin ice in a place where your species is a reason for most to hate you. It makes sense. Just leave it. So I decided to check it out (big surprise). With something as sensitive as that, it's always best not to get cocky and let the owner know something is up. I found that with all the security in place on this unknown system, I could watch, and nothing more. On my screen I could see schematics being manipulated for some kind of machine component. It looked pretty generic to begin with, but as I studied the mechanisms closely, it became clearer what it was.
No... that can't be possible, I thought.
If the model I was seeing was accurate, then somebody was perfecting a focusing mechanism for a laser. Not just that, but it would have to belong to a laser large enough to destroy an entire planet based on the amounts of power the schematics accounted for.
If you've been a person who exists in the galaxy for more than five minutes, then well done, you've reached the same lightbulb moment as everyone else. You know what the Death Star is, and what was going on here should make enough sense to you. I, however, didn't have a damn clue. The destruction of Alderaan was several months away. The galaxy's ability to feel true terror had not yet been reignited. Sometimes I miss being that naive. I wasn't sure that I believed such a weapon was even possible, but I decided, out of morbid curiosity, to decipher the credentials of the user designing this facilitator of armageddon. It took some time, and really stretched the boundaries of my skills at that point, but I got there. At this point it was just shy of 0400 hours, and simply put, I was knackered. Of course, what I was seeing woke me up nicely. The person designing superweapon components was none other than Professor Fleetwood. I was surprised, but not quite shocked. Fleetwood being a staunch Imperial sympathiser explained much about his xenophobic attitudes towards me, just another mindless drone standing up to be counted with the enemy of justice. Alas, as with everything in life, there was something to gain here.
The next morning, Professor Fleetwood walked into an empty classroom, empty except for me, of course.
"What's going on?", he grumbled, "Where is everyone?"
"They got a communication from the Professor, saying that class is cancelled. Gives you and I a chance to have a chat."
"What are you playing at, boy?"
"I don't know if you're aware of this, but the Institute's code of conduct has a clause prohibiting faculty from using their research grants to fund or enable the development of weaponry of any kind. Bunch of peace loving chaps, really. Anyways, that kinda steps on the toes of that little laser mechanism you were working on, huh?" I said, shamefully enjoying being the one in power.
His face darkened, "Why shouldn't I just kill you?"
"Because I have the only remaining copy of your work, and unless I enter a series of biometric identification data pertaining to me and only me, said copy will be sent to all your bosses in exactly..." I checked my chrono. "Three hours." I finished.
"What do you want?" he asked, defeat in his voice.
"Freedom, the Emperor dead, my own penthouse... but I'll ask something you can actually achieve for me, huh? These guys," I said, handing him a scratchpad with a series of names written down on it.
"Fail them, leave the worst references you can muster. Destroy their records and every chance they have for a future. My work speaks for itself, grade it fairly and I'll be out of your hair."
"That's it?!" he said, scowling, "You could extort thousands of credits from me, and instead you choose to win some petty rivalry?"
"It's not about the money, Professor, it's about sending a message. Take care of all that and I'll be happy and qualified to leave this place."
"Go to hell..."
"I'm here, Professor."
Sometimes I feel guilty about destroying those guy's lives just to get revenge, but then I remember that they deserved it. Maybe someday I'll check in, see if they became better people, but I won't hold my breath. There's a moral argument to be made, though. My fast tracked graduation got me into a naval program that doubled as a recruiting drive for the Rebel Alliance Starfighter Corps, a force which ultimately saved many lives, and as you all know, won the war, and restored freedom to the galaxy.