~ Amitiť ~
"You're double majoring?"
Meson gaped at Geo. Geo nodded and stuck another piece of food into his mouth. Silence fell to the table as chatter rung throughout the rest of the cafeteria. After Geo chewed and swallowed the manufactured meat, he explained as much as he could to his former roommate about his decision.
"You know that mecha training thing they have here during the vacation months? I joined it. I like mechas. It's just me. Trooper told me that I can't switch majors this late into the Academy years, but I can double major and stay in the Academy for an extra year to complete a three-year Piloting term."
Meson shook his head and stabbed a piece of asuna. "Well... you did let Holden know that it was going to cost more money, didn't you? Because if you didn't, well, I have seen him get angry before. It's not a pretty sight."
Geo sighed. That was the one thing he was trying to keep from Holden. The scholarship they earned wouldn't pay for a double major, and the family income hadn't changed in the past year. There was no way Geo could possibly pay for both Leadership and Piloting without having to get a loan. If there was one thing Holden made absolutely clear before they left Integra, it was that the brothers would not do anything that would require them to get a loan from the government.
"Not yet," Geo said. "And don't you tell him. It's something I have to do."
I have to tell him before the day is over is I want to live to carry this out. Whenever you get out of that damn lunch line, Holden!
It was a new term at the Autozam Air Force Academy. During the three month break after the second semester of sophomore year, cadets had one of two choices: go home or sign up for a program either at the Academy or the Army Trainee Center. Even then, there were only two choices: make up classes for classes failed or mecha training with the Army cadets. Army cadets had to do mecha training no matter what; they received no such vacation.
Geo and Holden only had enough money to return to Integra, but they did not have enough money to go back to the Academy. Their mother had understood this and told them that she would give their supervisor, Lieutenant Colonel Isuzu Trooper, a call when she had earned enough money to get them back for at least one vacation.
Nevertheless, they were stuck to sign up for a vacation program at the Air Force Academy.
Both of the brothers excelled well in all of their classes--save for Geo's Pre-Autozam History class. He received an average grade, but at least it was a passing grade. That, Holden said, was all that counted. So really, they had no choice but to join the mecha training class.
Holden hated it. Geo loved it and wanted to take it up as a career.
He had been very fortunate. Trios year, the year he had just started, was the first year in which cadets could sign up for the Mecha Study and Training class. The only catch was that they had to have a Piloting major. Geo was so desperate to get in that he talked to Trooper.
The only way that he could double major this late in the Academy years was to pay extra tuition fees and stay in the Academy for another year.
Trooper knew about the Metro family's financial problem and suggested a loan. Geo said that he could do it.
He said that he could do it before even thinking about Holden's advice. If he got a loan, he would have to pay the Academy back within two years of graduating. To Holden, it was barely enough time to get a stable lucrative job.
Geo could only imagine how Holden was going to react. What a way to brighten up the first day of trios year for his older brother.
Things could be worse.
"What classes did you give up to double major?" Meson asked. "Mother says that in order to double major--she told me this before I even signed up to take the test for the Academy--you have to give up a couple of classes, which is why double majors go into a fifth year. And you're double majoring in the middle of the school years when you already had a set major! What are you giving up?"
"Things I think I really don't need to take," Geo said. "Namely the basic courses."
"Trooper let you give up the basic courses?! I thought you were only supposed to give up electives--that's what Mother told me, anyway, about double majoring."
"Sounds like your mother really wanted you to double major. I thought she only wanted you to become an ambassador," Geo said.
"An ambassador and a pilot," said Meson. "But I thought being an ambassador would give me a better chance to sightsee. Anyway, Trooper let you give up the basic courses?"
Geo shrugged. "Not all of them. I still need to take a science and math course, but I don't think I need a history course, so I'm taking that in my fifth year, and I can take Thesis during my extra year, too."
Meson sighed. "I still can't believe Trooper let you get rid of two basic courses instead of your electives."
"I did get rid of one. Foreign Relations."
"But Foreign Relations is important!" Meson exclaimed. "I mean, if you ever want to go to Cephiro or Chizeta or Fahren, don't you think you should take Foreign Relations to understand how their culture is like and what they know about Autozam? About how to handle issues later in life?"
"You just want me to be in the same class as you," Geo said, "since we're not roommates anymore."
A new term meant new roommates. Meson, luckily for him, bunked with an old friend of his that Geo had only met few times during sophomore year. He often spent his lunch hours studying; he was not very sociable. Geo found that he had no roommate--if he did, then his roommate had been far from late this morning. Geo had been scolded at by his teacher and a few quatre cadets.
At least he followed the basic principles of teamwork: never abandon your partner. Ever.
And Geo found out that what he heard was true. Quatre cadets were easier on trios than they were on sophomores and freshmen. Nobody yelled in his face on his way to class, and the quatres didn't quite inspect the trioses before classes.
Geo looked up from his lunch tray and saw a young boy with pasty hair standing next to him. He was younger than Geo, and since quatres and sophomores shared their lunch hour, this boy had to be a freshman.
"Yeah?" Geo asked. There was something familiar about him...
"Is it okay if I sit with you two? All of the other tables I've checked are filled."
Geo glanced at Meson, who merely shrugged. Geo smiled back at the boy. "Sure, why not? We're only expecting my brother in a moment, anyway."
I guess I'll have to wait until after classes end to tell Holden about the loans.
"Thank you." He pulled out a chair with his free hand and sat. He quickly glanced Geo over, and then smiled and said, "You're Geo Metro, aren't you? From F-T Teamwork?"
So that's it--oh yeah, now I remember!
"You sit next to me, don't you? Sorry. I didn't get your name."
"Usually you don't get to know any of your classmates names unless they do something really good or bad," Meson said, "like you being late for all of your classes."
Geo frowned. "It's not my fault that my roommate didn't show and all of my teachers before Teamwork decided to hold me back to yell at me. So, anyway," Geo said, turning back to the boy, "for a proper introduction, I'm Geo Metro of Integra."
"Meson Avant of Matador County," Meson said.
"Thanks for the introductions. I'm Eagle of Integra. You can just call me Eagle."
The steady volume of the lounge was immediately broken by one loud angry voice.
"You did WHAT?!"
Geo recoiled and glanced around the lounge nervously. Only a few people averted their conversations to quickly glance at the Metro brothers, but they immediately resumed their socializing. They probably figured it was a mere sibling bicker. Nothing special.
Geo wished it was a mere sibling bicker.
He also began to regret even considering telling Holden about his double majoring plan.
"You got a loan? A loan?!"
"For double majoring?"
"That's about right."
Holden closed his eyes and bit his lip. Geo recognized this as Holden's temper control system. It always failed.
"You got a loan... to double major."
Geo nodded slowly. "Yes, I did."
"WHY?!" Holden bellowed. "Why weren't you happy with Leadership? Why did you have to take up Piloting, too?! Why did you have to put our family on the debt list, which Ma tried to keep us off of for years?!"
Geo narrowed his eyes. "Just because I got a loan doesn't mean--"
"Yes! Getting a loan does mean that you do not have money! Do. Not. Have. Money," said Holden.
"I know that," Geo said.
"So why did you do it?"
Geo hesitated. If he said the first thing that came to mind, Holden would be even more upset than he was now. If he gave his older brother a simple answer, he would bring family matters into everything again. He had to choose his words carefully.
"You always told me to be an opportunist, Holden," said Geo. "Don't you think that this would give me better opportunities to succeed in life rather than be limited?"
Holden laughed sarcastically. "Don't even get me started. Ma is broke. If Ma is broke, so are we. If we are broke, so is Ma. Geo, if we wanted, we could have taken our scholarship money to go visit Ma during vacation. But we didn't. Did you know that? We could have gone to visit Ma and come back. But we didn't. She wanted us to use the scholarship money for our own use, but it is not enough for you to double major."
"That I know."
Holden glared at Geo. "So you got a loan. You got a freaking loan! You do realize that--"
"--two years is not long enough to pay it up, but two years is all I've got?" said Geo. "Yes, I do realize that. Holden, you just have to trust me--"
"How can I trust you now?!" Holden growled. "I told you to not do a single thing that would require you to get a loan. You turned your back on me and did it anyway. How the hell am I supposed to trust you to pay those loans back within two years?!"
"I'll use my own earned money."
"That doesn't help. You had better go talk to Trooper and tell him--"
"No," Geo said.
Holden's glower went from terrible to horrible. "And. Why. Not?"
"I want to double major," Geo said. "Being a leader is not enough for me. I want to learn how to control a mecha better than, well, better than President Talon Vision can. Impossible dream, maybe, but during vacation I realized how right the mecha was for me. Do you not understand that? Do you not understand needs?!"
"Needs," Holden said through clenched teeth, "is food and shelter. By getting a loan, you're not helping with Ma's needs for food. Maybe sooner or later shelter if you can't pay the loans back within two years of graduating!"
"There are other types of needs!"
"Have I come at a bad time?"
Geo glanced behind his shoulder. There Meson stood, seeming a bit anxious.
"I mean, if I have, then I'll just get into the line for dinner," Meson said. "After all, they did just call for trois to get in line for food and everything. I can always talk to Geo about, er, classes--" Meson gave Geo a pleading look. "--during study time when we're supposed to do our homework..."
"That important?" Holden asked. From the sound of his looser string of words and heavy breathing, he seemed to finally be able to control his temper.
Meson nodded. "That important."
"Oh, go ahead," said Holden. "I see sense can't be knocked into my little brother anyway."
Geo turned his head and glared at Holden. Before he could retort, Meson grabbed Geo's arm and pulled him towards the elevator.
When the two stepped inside as the doors were closing, Meson finally said, "Bad idea to tell him, wasn't it?"
Geo nodded, a scowl still pasted on his face. "Quite."
"Anyway, you do remember Eagle from lunchtime, right?"
Geo looked at Meson. This was the last thing he had expected. "Yeah. What about him?"
"He didn't give us his last name."
Meson looked at Geo. "He said he was from Integra. The capital of Autozam."
"I'm from Integra, Meson. I know what you mean."
"Not many people who attend the Academy are from Integra," Meson continued. "There are two things about the name "Eagle" you might want to know about. "Eagle" is a rich person's name. "Eagle" also happens to be the name of President Vision's son."
"Are you suggesting that Eagle, that freshman from earlier, is Eagle Vision?"
Before Meson could answer, the elevator halted and the doors slid open. The two of them stepped out and headed towards the cafeteria line, which already looked like a twenty-minute wait.
As the two walked towards the line, Meson replied, "He could be Eagle Vision. It'd be an odd coincidence if he wasn't. Mother told me that Eagle Vision just started the Academy this year."
"Coincidences happen," Geo said. "Besides, even if he was Eagle Vision, the son of the President of Autozam, really, what difference would it make? He seems like a nice kid. Just like you. I thought you were pretty nice when we first met despite that you were related to one of the five generals of Autozam. A bit talkative but nice."
Meson sighed. "Geo, I'm not saying anything against Eagle."
"Then what are you saying?"
"That it would be very awesome if we became good friends of Eagle Vision!"
Geo rolled his eyes and chuckled. Yes, it would be a great privilege to be friends with the president's son, but Geo really had other things to worry about. Imagining that the young kid from lunch time was Eagle Vision would not help his current issues: his loan and his brother.
However, he was more than grateful of Meson for interrupting his and Holden's argument--to put it lightly--for something as trivial as this.
The next morning, Geo managed to get up early enough to eat breakfast before classes started. Breakfast in the Academy was not an important meal. Lunch came pretty early in the day, and dinner was normally the size of meal Geo and Holden would have on special occasions. Normally, for the first couple of weeks, freshmen would get up that early for breakfast, but the habit soon breaks when they start being late for Basic Training because they decide to eat breakfast.
Geo really wasn't hungry, but he was awake. And since he had no roommate, he had more freedom to do as he wished when he wished. So, after dressing into the standard Academy uniform--which was exactly like the uniform military officials wore--he grabbed his AMC and headed towards the cafeteria.
He had finished his homework the night before except for his Mecha Study and Training homework. Perfect time to get it finished. He wouldn't have to worry about it at lunch.
The elevator halted on the fourth floor of Du Nord. Geo sighed. The first five floors of Du Nord were freshmen dormitories. It was only the second day of school; what did the freshmen know about the consequences of being late to Basic Training.
All right. Geo could only imagine the consequences of being late to Basic Training. After all, he never had been a freshman at the Air Force Academy. Imagining was all he was allowed to muster.
When the doors slid open, Geo was surprised to find that there was only one freshman waiting for the elevator. He was further surprised to see that it was the boy from the day before at lunch.
"Good morning, Eagle," said Geo with a smile.
Eagle smiled back as he stepped inside. "Good morning, Geo. Sleep well?"
The elevator doors closed.
Geo nodded and suppressed a yawn. For some reason, that question evoked a sign of tiredness, but he was wide awake. Still, the weight of the exasperation showed through his voice when he said, "Yeah. You?"
"Wish I could have slept in longer," said Eagle. "But I don't want to be late. The quatres, I've heard, are really rough on freshmen."
"You'll get used to it. You'll have to," Geo said. "Trios is the first year you get your freedom from them, but then again, you really don't get to see much of the quatres. You'll have hell during freshman and sophomore year. Trust me on this part, Eagle: eating breakfast is not worth anything around here."
"I know. That's why I let myself sleep in; I can go straight to Basic Training."
Geo frowned. "Did your roommate leave you, or did you not have a roommate?" he asked. "You were alone."
"I told him he could leave without me. He had homework to finish up. I didn't want to keep him from it."
The elevator decelerated and halted on the first floor of Du Nord. The doors opened, and the two cadets walked out. For a moment, they were silent as they marched down the corridor connecting Du Nord and the Centre. Geo had no clue what Eagle would be thinking, but the thought never did cross his mind.
Not that Eagle wasn't on Geo's mind. He thought about Meson's words the night before: "He could be Eagle Vision. It'd be an odd coincidence if he wasn't."
Coincidences happen, Geo repeated the words he had told Meson.
Geo knew that he would never have given a thought to even the slightest possibility that this Eagle, the one walking right next to him, was the president's son, if Meson had never brought it up. Oh, he knew that President Talon Vision had a son. Even the homeless knew that. He knew that his name was Eagle--it was in every textbook at the public schools and in every file at the Academy, always followed by the cryptic question: "Will he insure the security of the renewed government?"
Besides, if this Eagle was the Eagle Vision, he certainly was different than what a "spoiled brat", as Holden had once put it (although Geo was glad to disagree with his older brother at this particular moment), would behave. Eagle was polite. Even after knowing him for less than a full day, Geo could easily draw up that conclusion. He had no love for disclosing his last name to get what he wanted. Then again, Eagle could have sat at any other table the day before if Geo and Meson had refused to allow him to eat with them. He also seemed kind; polite and kind were two different things. He let his roommate go to breakfast to finish up his homework and get some food in his stomach so that he would not have been late.
Geo still didn't know enough about Eagle to draw up any real conclusions, but what if he wasn't the president's son?
Well, Geo decided, if he doesn't want me to know, I guess I won't ask. And what a stupid question it would be if he wasn't Eagle Vision!
"You know, Geo," Eagle began. The two just entered the Centre--the lower cafeteria. "If you said that eating breakfast isn't worth anything, why did you come? You could have slept in for a while longer."
Geo laughed and placed a hand on Eagle's shoulder. "Staying up all night to finish up your homework is definitely not worth being late to your first class. Not only have you got the instructors to worry about, but there's also the quatres and some stray trioses. It'll make you late to the rest of your morning classes, like what happened yesterday to me. Besides--" He held up his AMC. "--best get my last class homework over with in the morning than cramming it all in at lunch, right? I have a full hour."
Eagle had a small grin on his face. "I guess I'll learn more from the upperclassmen about the Academy than I would have listening to stories from my father."
Geo hadn't intended to, but there was an opening. A perfect opening, at that. So why not take it?
"Your father came to the Academy?" Geo asked without trying to sound like he suspected anything at all.
Eagle nodded, but he had shifted further away from Geo, as if he had to leave at a certain time but was having too much fun to depart. "Yeah. Oh, I was just wondering, before I start heading to the gymnasium, would it be okay if I got into the same group as you and Meson for Teamwork?"
Geo shrugged. "Why not? One less person to try to recruit, anyway." He smiled to show Eagle at least some sort of kindness--be it that he was joking or that he wasn't intending for it to sound mean, depending on how Eagle would interpret it.
"Thanks. Well, bye!" Eagle waved and strolled to the elevators of the Centre.
A frown appeared on Geo's face. He took a seat at the closest table--which, by some miracle, was empty--and clicked his AMC on.
Why had Eagle wanted to get away from Geo after he asked about his father?
Meson's words no longer rung "possibility". This time, Geo realized that Meson might be absolutely right.
But why would, if he was the president's son, Eagle want to keep his last name a secret?