Dressing Down

Chris Van Deelen

Dressing Down

By Chris Van Deelen

 

Den Tandein stood with his back against the rough-hewn stone wall of the dimly lit corridor. He had his arms crossed and his head was resting on the uncomfortable texture as he stood there, contemplating his future. He was in trouble, he knew that as surely as the air-circulators kept pushing the very essence of life through the stone corridors.

With a grunt, he moved his head away from the wall. Being a Tiefling, he sported a magnificent set of horns. Most of the Tieflings he knew had a single set – and no two were exactly the same. Somehow Den had been gifted – cursed – with four horns, and they were rather generous in size.  Much to his consternation, the tips of his rear-facing horns just barely brushing the rock behind him, causing him no end of irritation. He sighed and re-arranged his features, trying to hide the anxiety he felt.  To anyone looking at the young Tiefling, they would think he was relaxed, totally at ease, but those who knew him, or Tieflings in general, would see how his long, forked tail twitched ever so slightly, betraying the agitation flowing through the young man.

The shadows cast by the dim lights of the corridor seemed to move and sway on their own volition with the passing of each cadet or officer. Not one gave the Tiefling a second glance – after all, the stood outside the commandant’s office and those in the know realized he was in for it.

Still feigning an air of nonchalance, Den straightened as he pulled away from the wall. He ran a hand through his short, regulation haircut and sniffed once. The air was cool and held a slightly metallic tang to it, as well as the ever-present scent of old sweat and machine oil – something which could never be fully removed from the filtration system.

The Tiefling was clad in his best dress-blues, a ceremonial uniform worn by all cadets whenever they were to meet with high-ranking officers, on parade, or for ceremonies. His was tailored to perfection, the pants and jacket altered to allow his tail freedom to move. A tag with his name was attached to the right breast of his jacket. Each button seemed to gleam in the dimness of the corridor, despite the lack of any strong light source. The only thing missing was the hat, which Den was exempt from wearing due to his horns.

He resisted lifting his wrist to check the old-fashioned watch he had strapped to it and sighed. Even though his countenance did not relay his feelings, his stomach was doing flip-flops as a pair of angst demons played merrily. Den knew he was in deep trouble, and that the final prank might toll the bell, ending his time at the academy.

And that bothered him more than he was willing to admit, even to himself.

“Cadet Tandein?” A voice spoke into his right ear.

He actually squeaked in fright and brought his hands up protectively towards his face as he turned to face the speaker. It was a woman in the standard uniform of the navy, and she had the insignia of a Major attached to the collar of her uniform jacket. Like the majority of the officers and teachers at the academy, she was a Drow, but seemed to lack the typical arrogance of the race. The corners of her lips tugged slightly at his reaction.

“Yes, Major?” He gulped.

“Commandant Arden will see you now,” she said as she stood to the side and held the door open to the awaiting office.

“Sir, yes sir, and thank you Major,” Den paused for only a heartbeat before adding, “sir.”  He commanded his legs to move, hoping to all the myriad gods that they would not shake as he entered the office.

His wish was granted. Someone, maybe one of the benevolent gods, maybe a dark god with a twisted sense of humor, was indeed listening to his silent and heart-felt prayers.

It was not the first time Den had been inside this particular office, and deep down he almost prayed it would be the last – not that he wanted to be kicked out, but the last time he would have to face the man seated behind the large desk.

The room was spacious, nearly the size of the various classrooms located throughout the academy. The chamber was approximately forty feet in length and twenty wide, and the walls were adorned with the holographic portraits of the previous commandants, going back to the founding of the institute. A single desk crafted out of living wood sat in the center of the chamber. Two stiff-backed chairs rested before it, while the Commandant waited in a slightly larger, more comfortable-looking seat on the other side. The desk was neat, with only a couple of folders resting on the highly polished surface while a holographic display hovered in the air a few centimeters off the surface.

Unlike the corridor, the room was brightly lit and Den found himself standing at the entrance. He hesitated for only a second before he swallowed and strode up to stand before the maginificent desk. In his mind, he knew that such an artifact was worth more than some of the ships that the academy used to shuttle students and faculty members around the system.  

Commandant Arden was a human male. He was slightly taller than the human, and well-built for a man his age. He was dressed in the standard uniform of the Academy, which fit the man like a perfectly tailored glove. He was busy reading the glowing text, his stone-grey eyes moving from side to side, with his hands resting under his chin.

Standing at attention, Den looked to the right of the commandant, just over the man’s shoulder and cleared his throat. “Cadet Tandein reporting as ordered, sir!”

The commandant never took his eyes off the display and waved one long-fingered hand. “At ease, cadet.”

“Sir, yes sir!” Den practically shouted as he strode between the two chairs. He spread his legs slightly and clasped his hands behind his back, coming to what was known in the academy as ‘parade rest’.  Feeling the movement behind him, Den willed his twitching tail to relax.

“You know why you are here.” Arden said. It was not a question but a statement.

“Sir, yes sir!”

Commandant Arden finally looked away from the text and allowed his eyes to lock with Den’s. The young Tiefling felt his knees go slightly weak as fear crept up from the pit of his stomach, reaching with icy fingers up his spine and across his heart. His anxiety demons were having fun today. His mouth went absolutely dry and he wished he had thought to bring some candy to suck on.

“What am I going to do with you?” Commandant Arden said after a moment, his eyes still locked on Den’s. “After our last chat, and your punishment, you still had to cause trouble, didn’t you?”

Den said nothing.

“Let’s review your past transgressions, shall we?” The commandant said, swiping one hand through the display before him. Even though Den could not see the images or text, he knew exactly what the commandant was seeing. 

His record.

“Over the years you have been caught numerous times instigating various pranks and we’re sure you have been at the heart of at least a dozen more, although no one can prove you were involved.”

Again, Den said nothing.

Clearing his throat, the commandant swiped one finger across the screen. “During your first year you gained access to a nanite swarm and used it against several of the senior cadets.”

“Sir, yes sir,” Den said for the third time as he remembered the incident.  Hazing was the standard ritual for all new cadets in the Academy, and had its roots which went back to near-prehistoric times.  It had been during one of the first recreational dances of the year, one in which only the most senior cadets were allowed to attend.  Den had managed to obtain a container of nanites specially tailored to consume fabrics, but leaving living flesh unharmed.  The first year cadet managed to sneak his way into the dorm rooms of the seniors when they were out in the field and he had carefully scattered the fabric-munching machines in the lockers of nearly a dozen seniors.

During the dance later that evening, Den had triggered the nanites to begin their feast of the fabrics, and within seconds eleven fourth-year cadets were left naked before hundreds of others. The thought of the incident nearly caused the young Tiefling to smile.

“Sir, I was cleared of all charges for that, as no one was hurt in the incident.”

Commandant Arden nodded. “Indeed you were,” he agreed, although it was clear he was not pleased with the outcome. With a sigh, he tapped the holographic display, dismissing the report. In a flash, the next report was displayed. His eyes scanned the text and the accompanying images for nearly a full minute before he broke the silence.

Den watched, seeing a very slight upturn of the commandant’s mouth.  He knew the man was amused, but was doing his best to fight it.

“Then there was this incident, where you replaced all the video’s for the mornings announcements with Goblin on Goblin pornography,” Commandant Arden snorted slightly and covered it up with a cough.

“Sir, yes sir.”

“Why by all the dark gods and goddesses did you do that? Do you know how much trouble that caused?” He paused and then continued. “And where did you manage to get that anyhow?”

Den reached up with his right arm and scratched the short-cropped hair at the name of his neck, breaking protocol without realizing it. “Sir, I used the net. There is a rule – many think it’s pure myth but it isn’t.”

“Ah yes.  I should have realized.

“Sir, yes sir. I cannot go into detail as it would cause irreparable harm to some of the upper class men.”

The stern façade returned and Commandant Arden scowled deeply. “We have the report right here,” he waved at the holographic display. “You confessed to the action, claiming it was to –“ he peered at the display “to prove your skills in programming and hacking, in order to get better grades.”

The young Tiefling felt his face grow hot, and thanked the demon’s whose blood flowed through his veins that his flesh was naturally ruddy. “Sir, yes sir. That was my reasoning behind it, as I have already confessed. And…” he decided to continue down the road he was already treading. “I did get the highest score in the class, maybe because of or despite this.”  

Commandant Arden continued to stare at the young man for several seconds and shook his head. “Den,” he said, dropping the honorific. “Indeed, but you could have chosen a different method.”

Den dropped his hand from his neck and went back to standing at attention. He let his gaze hit a point just over the Commandant’s right shoulder. “Yes sir, but really – it was the challenge and I had to prove that I could do it.”

“Indeed you did, cadet.”

Den decided to wait to see what the Commandant wanted to say next.

Standing up, Commandant Arden placed his hands on the table before him and sighed heavily. “You are highly intelligent, you have a quick mind, and you have potential to be one of the best pilots this academy has ever produced.”

“Sir?” Den blinked and made eye contact with the Drow.

“In all my years as Commandant of this academy, I have never seen anyone with your natural aptitude and ability when it comes to piloting,” he held Den’s gaze and waved at the holographic display. “All these pranks you have pulled…” he let the sentence fade before flicking the display and bringing up the next report.

“Sir –“ Den began but the Commandant held up his hand.

“Den, shut it,” he looked at the Tiefling before returning his attention to the display. After reading for nearly thirty seconds, he looked back up. “I have to admit, this one was pretty funny.”

Den said nothing.

“You were on a training exercise on the surface, where you and your squad mates were to engage another group in a game of capture the flag.”

The Tiefling fidgeted, remembering the exercise. He and his fellow cadets made up a squad of twelve men and women. He realized that was not quite true. There were twelve boys and girls, as none were out of their teens yet.  

“Yes sir. The exercise was rigged to go against us.”

Commandant Arden nodded. He knew it was the case. “Indeed it was Cadet.”

“So I decided to change the rules sir,” Den stated, his chest puffing out in pride. “As with the announcements, I wanted to prove I could do it.”

“And in the end, instead of losing, your team won the challenge. A first, according to the academy history records.”

“Sir, yes sir. I found out from one of my friends, who happened to be a 3rd year cadet what we were facing, and knew that it was a test of character, to see how we would react to a hopeless situation. So the night before, I ah…. Acquired a chemical substance and laced it through the opposition’s heavier armor.”

“Yes, and this chemical substance was activated by sweat.”

“Sir, yes sir.” Den could not help but smile ever-so-slightly. “Just as the opposition team was about to capture our flag, after having defeated seven of my squad-mates, the powder activated.” Den could not hold back the smile as he saw the scene in his mind’s eye. The heavy-armor clad cadets were frantically trying to scratch through the heavy plates of the armor they wore. Some even went as far as to remove the outer layers in order to get at the incessant irritation.

“I’ll give you points for ingenuity,” the Commandant said in a barely audible tone. “You got hold of one of their assault rifles and proceeded to mow down the entire squad as they were helpless to fight back.”

“Sir, yes sir.”

“Once again, proving your skill in programming and hacking.”

“Sir, yes sir.” All the weapons, even the training weapons, had sensors that read the users bio-metrics. It made it impossible for any of the weapons to be used by those who were not authorized to do so. For a few hours, every weapon on the base had become infected with a virus, which would allow Den to use it without locking him out.

“Potential charges were dropped,” Arden said, looking back at the display, “due to the fact you discovered and helped our programmers close a potentially lethal back door.”

Den merely nodded.

The commandant sighed, shook his head and then returned his unflinching gaze to Den. “It may not have worked in the real world, but it is that kind of…” he tapped his chin, lost in thought as he tried to dredge the appropriate phrase. “Out of the box thinking that we need.”

Den only nodded and tried to breathe normally as a trickle of sweat ran down his spine.

Commandant Arden’s long fingers flashed through the holographic display and it changed to show two images – one of a large, brutish-looking man and then one of a smaller, somewhat pretty woman who could have been the man’s sister. “Do you recognize him?”

“Sir, yes sir. That is Cadet Santrill.”

“What is your relationship with Cadet Santrill?” Arden asked.

Den chewed on his lower lip, the sharp canines nearly breaking the skin. “Sir, can I speak freely?”

“Sure, why not?” Commandant Arden waved a hand dismissively and pushed away from the display, his features once again unreadable, as if carved out of the living rock the room was cut into.

“I thought that the cases against me were closed.”

“They are, but I find it often enlightening to review them from time to time, so… humor me.”

Stifling a sigh, and fighting the urge to punch himself in the belly to quell the quarreling demons, Den continued. “Cadet Santrill is a womanizing asshole who loves to bully and push around younger cadets – especially girls.”

Arden nodded slightly. “So, he was a bully towards you?”

“Sir, not directly.”

“Oh?”

“He was rougher than he had to be, but it was nothing I haven’t dealt with in the past.”

“Then why did he become the target of one of your pranks?” Commandant Arden asked, his stoic face looking genuinely curious.

“He put one of my fellow first year cadets in the infirmary,” Den answered, feeling more beads of sweat break out on his forehead and down his spine. His tail swished once in agitation before he managed to bring it under control.

“Ah yes, Cadet Yoko. The incident was proven to be nothing more than an unfortunate accident.”

Den shook his head vigorously. “No sir, it wasn’t.”

The silence hung between the two men for several heartbeats. “So you stated during the initial enquiry. Tell me what happened again.”

“Suffice to say sir, Santrill wanted to spend some… quality time, with Yoko. She refused and he made sure that she was injured,” Den explained. He knew that he had crossed an unspoken line, ratting out a fellow senior cadet, but since he got away with it before, he knew stating his views again would not cause any harm.

“How do you know this?” The commandant said in a low tone.

“I overheard him talking to a few of the other senior cadets,” Den explained. “He was bragging about it and said that next time she would do as he demanded. He felt agitated having to tell the commandant this for a second time, but knew that he had no choice.

“And you didn’t like that.”

“Sir, no sir,” Den replied. He swallowed, feeling the demons residing in his belly renew their effort to bring him to his knees. Den refused to let them win.

“Okay, let me get this straight,” the commandant leaned forward, his elbows resting on the desk before him. One eyebrow raised in consideration – or amusement, as he read the holographic display. “Because you didn’t like what he did, you somehow managed to get Cadet Santrill drunk, and then convinced him to drink a potion which changed his sex?”

Den nodded, and the thought of his masterful plan and manipulation helped calm his nerves.  By some miracle managed to keep a smirk from forming on his face, like he had the first time he had to explain himself in this matter.  “Sir, yes sir.”

Commandant Arden leaned away from the display of Cadet Santrill and the young woman. He closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. “And why did you do that?”

“Sir,” Den said, still keeping a straight façade. “I thought it was the right thing to do at the time.”

“Really,” Commandant  Arden said quietly.

“Really,” Den replied, although as he studied the man’s face, he was certain he could see a ghost of a smile starting to form.  “I figured that maybe if he had to walk around in a woman’s shoes and underwear he might see them in a different light. Uh, sir?”

“What is it Cadet?”

He was surprised that the Commandant brought this incident up, and had figured that with the passage of time, it would have been resolved. Although he was cleared of charges, he figured it would not hurt to try and make amends. “I will provide the credits to buy him a new potion.”

The Commandant stared at the Tiefling Cadet for what seemed like hours before finally speaking. “That is not possible at this time.”

Now it was Den’s turn to look confused. “Why is that, sir? I figured Cadet Santrill was back to normal, after all it has been a few months.” He then came to the realization that he had not actually seen Santrill since the incident. “Was he transferred?”

With a sigh, Commandant Arden tapped a key on the desk and the display disappeared. “Because Cadet Santrill decided it would be interesting to see what it was like to have sex as a woman.  He – she did so and got pregnant.”

Den blinked several times and could not help it when he burst out laughing. “Now that I didn’t do!”

“No, but you are still responsible!” The commandant snapped, but the twinkle in his eyes betrayed his own amusement at the situation. “I actually commend you in your actions, and I’m impressed you managed to convince Cadet Santrill to willing take the potion. If he doesn’t learn from his mistake that he should treat women better, then there really is nothing we can do for him.”

“Sir, yes sir – I guess that is why I haven’t seen him… her since the hearing. Was she transferred?”

“Yes, he, I mean she was. We will take you up on the offer, however.  Cadet Santrill wanted to have the fetus aborted, but we said it was against the Academy’s regulations.”

Looking confused, Den just stood there saying nothing.  He knew that all the female Cadets were given contraceptives to prevent such things from happening. He opened and closed his mouth several times, never quite able to form a sentence. Den nodded. “Sir, yes sir.”

“The ruling council knew of his attitude and activities, and they find it… fitting, that he remain in his current condition and that it is considered to be an abject lesson.”

“Understood,” Den stated and then quickly added “Sir.” For some reason Den could not fathom, the commandant seemed to relax.

Commandant Arden’s features grew softer and his shoulders dropped, as if a heavy weight had been lifted from them. Arden caught and held Den’s gaze once again. “I have to admit, this next situation is probably going to go down in the academy’s legends.”

Den felt the demons in his belly pause in their battle, listening in anticipation. “Sir?”

“Giving hallucinogenic drugs to the fowl, well…” the commandant’s features broke into the first genuine smile of the day. “That was nothing short of brilliant.”

“Uh – sir, thank you sir?”

“I have to ask you, Cadet, why?”

That particular disciplinary action had been taken care of by several of the senior instructors, as Commandant Arden had been off world at the time.  Den knew that the Commandant had read the transcripts and had seen the video recording, but he knew better than to not answer.  “The same reason I answered during that tribunal,” Den replaced the titanium in his spine and silently cursed the demons in his belly as they redoubled their efforts to make him sick. “It felt like the right thing to do at the time.” When he saw that the commandant was about to reply, he quickly added “and no one was hurt!”

“Be that as it may,” the commandant said, ignoring the interruption. “We lost nearly twenty-five percent of the live chickens from the incident.” The commandant ran his fingers through the holographic display, pulling up a new menu. From there, he selected a file and played it.

The file showed hundreds of chickens during their daily feeding period. They seemed perfectly normal and were content to do what chickens do best, and then all of a sudden the fowl stopped in their tracks. It was as if a light switch had been thrown and then the scene became one of pure chaos, something that the lords of chaos would have been proud of.

Some of the birds stood where they were, unmoving, their little eyes fixed on something only they could see. Other chickens began running and attempting to fly, as if they were being chased. Still others went into what could only be called a rage and started attacking anything that moved. Blood, viscera and feathers flew in every direction and then one of the handlers had the bright idea to open the door and try to enter.

Like air escaping through a pin-prick in the hull of a starship, the chickens made their escape. Thousands of the food-fowl made their way through that particular section of the academy, invading the food storage and preparation, the control section, several of the staff’s personal quarters, the showers and even the armory.

Den could still see the video feed in his mind’s eye of three of the female instructors being chased out of the showers. All three were as naked as the day they entered this plane of existence and the hardened instructors ran screaming like plebes, running for their very lives as a hoard of no less than three hundred roosters came after them.

“Do you find something funny?” Commandant Arden asked, one white-eyebrow raised.

“By the abyss, yes!” Den blurted, and then quickly composed himself. “Sir, sorry sir, but you have to admit that when that one hen got into the helmet of the powered armor and managed to start up the weapon systems by sheer luck, now that was funny!”

Commandant Arden’s features slowly twisted into a deep scowl. “I don’t have to admit anything, cadet!”

“Sir, sorry sir! No you do not have to admit to anything sir, that is my current task!”

The commandant stared at Den, his grey eyes boring holes through the young Tieflings head, as if he was attempting to carve his initials into the stone wall behind the young man. “Do you have any idea how much damage that single hen managed to inflict?”

“Sir, I was never told the full details, sir!”

“We are talking tens of thousands of credits in damages!” Arden practically roared. “The damn winged nugget nearly holed the ceiling!”

Den blinked. Did the commandant actually call the chickens winged nuggets? “Sir, sorry sir!”

The commandant sighed heavily. “It’s over, and it’s old news,” he stood up and walked around the desk to stand before the young man. He smiled a genuine smile. “And yes, Cadet, I did think it was funny. As I stated, this little act will go down as legend as long as these hallowed halls remain standing.”

The demon’s in Den’s belly paused in mid-strike, not believing their ears. “Sir, thank you sir!”

Commandant Arden placed one strong hand on Den’s shoulder, his weathered and scarred features softening even further. “Son – what I think you did was admirable, but if you would have been caught with the controlled substance, you would not only have been expelled, but you would probably be sent to prison.”

“Sir?” Den asked, the confusion on his face making him look years younger. It was an act, and they both knew it. Inside his stomach the demons had gone from fighting to outright fucking, and wildly at that. He felt as if they were going to burst through the lining of his abdomen at any second. Of course he knew exactly what the commandant was talking about. His friend and fellow cadet, a Vesk who was nicknamed Godzilla – because no one could pronounce his actual name – was the one who originally obtained the drug.

“Cadet – Den… the Vesk should have paid closer attention to the list of banned substances, and he was lucky you were there to help him out, otherwise things would have gone a lot differently,” commandant Arden said in a voice barely above a whisper. “I know that nearly all of the other cadets would have turned him in without hesitation, and yet you didn’t.” He stared at Den, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

The demons were now fighting while engaged in highly rambunctious intercourse, and he felt an involuntary shudder run screaming down his spine and to the tip of his tail. Cold sweat, seemingly as huge as a glacier trickled down between his inner-most horns. “Sir, I have no idea what you are talking about, sir!”

“For someone who has the blood of fiends, for someone who embraces chaos as much as you do Den… you show a shocking amount of loyalty towards some of your fellow cadets,” the commandant’s eyes bored into Den’s.

The young Tiefling said nothing.

With a sigh and a gentle smile, the commandant gave Den’s shoulder another brief squeeze and then returned to sit behind his desk. He studied the display for several more seconds before finally swiping his hand and the final file appeared. The whole reason Den had been called to the Commandant’s office. This time a young woman, beautiful beyond compare, appeared. She was slightly shorter than the average human woman, with features chiselled out of the finest porcelain. A small, delicate nose, high cheekbones, almond-shaped eyes and flesh the color of milk. Her hair was radiant platinum, and the blue of her eyes literally glowed, even in the picture.

Den swallowed audibly, and the sweat trickling through his hair and down his back threatened to turn into a torrent.

The reaction did not go un-noticed. “You recognize Ambassador Tarigan’s daughter then?” Arden asked.

Den’s head bobbed up and down jerkily, and he spoke through a constricted throat. “Sir, yes sir.” Den had to bite his tongue. The commandant knew full well that Den recognized the woman – after all he had a direct hand in making sure the two met.

“And how, exactly, do you know her?” The commandant demanded, leaning forward so that his face was mere centimeters from the display, his nose nearly coming to rest between the woman’s large and beautifully defined breasts.

Den’s eyes narrowed and he felt the flesh between his horns creasing in confusion. What in the abyss was the commandant getting at? The young Tiefling decided to play along with the line of questioning , realizing that it was the best choice given the situation. “Biblically sir!” He blurted out to his horror and before the Commandant could speak, he rushed forward. “We met at the grand ball,” although it nearly came out as a squeak, his throat had constricted so much. The demons paused in their rutting, as if taking in the image he was staring at, absorbing every feature, the fineness of the woman’s face, the texture of her hair, the curves of her lips, shoulders and breasts.

“Ah yes, that is correct,” replied Commandant Arden. “And if I am not mistaken, you were personally chosen by her to act as her escort, correct?”

“Sir, yes sir,” Den replied, his throat still threatening to cut off his ability to speak. Despite the fear running through his body, he managed to stamp it down and stiffen the titanium in his spine. Elsewhere too, but that was the horny demon’s in his gut. “Sir, you knew that sir.” Deep in his mind he was screaming ‘what are you playing at, you pompous Drow!’

“Indeed,” Commandant Arden said dryly. “In fact, I was the one who gave you the assignment.”

“Sir, yes sir,” Den bit out through his fear-tightened throat. “In fact you said she actually chose me!”

“Yes, she did,” he agreed. “I found it quite strange that – of all the available races and potential escorts, Miss Tarigan chose you, a Tiefling. A man who is part demon and who has the blood of chaos flowing through his veins.”

“Sir, what are you getting at? Just come out and say it already!” Den blurted, and then in horror clamped his hands over his mouth, his face turning so pale the red-hue seemed to disappear entirely. He could not believe his control slipped so drastically.

Commandant Arlen sat perfectly still, staring at the young cadet. Eternity seemed to crawl by; entire galaxies were born, grew old and died in the span of time it took him to finally answer. “That was the gutsiest act of insubordination I have ever witnessed,” he stated flatly and sighed. “Of course I knew perfectly well that I assigned you to be her escort, and that you knew her. I’ll be editing the records of this…” he thought for the correct phrasing. “This disciplinary action.” He sighed again, long and from his very soul. “When I told you to get to know her and to show her a good time, I did not mean in the biblical manner or to that extent!”

“Sir…” Den began, swallowed hard and tried to drown the rutting demons in his stomach in saliva. “Sir, I am sorry.”

“The ambassador is quite upset and wants you ah… disposed of.”

This caused the young cadet to blink, and he felt his knees go weak. Den thought he was about to faint. “Sir…” genuine fear crept unwanted into his voice, causing it to tremble and go up several octaves.

Without comment, the commandant punched several spots on the holographic display. A video, as crisp as if he was witnessing the act from a different perspective, appeared. It was the ambassador’s daughter, naked and beautiful, writing on top of an equally naked but nowhere as beautiful Den.

“The last thing the ambassador was expecting was that his daughter would debase herself with one such as yourself.”

“Sir…” Den began but shut his mouth when the commandant waved his hand for silence.

“No you did not get her pregnant, but the prince she was betrothed to has called off the marriage and there is a very good chance that diplomatic relations have been irreparably damaged because of this.”

Unable to restrain his hand, Den wiped the cold sweat from his face and looked at the floor. “Sir…” he hesitated and when the commandant did not stop him, he ploughed on. “Sir, it was never my intention to screw her. She was having such a good time, and even though I refrained from drinking, she was guzzling the wine the other hard stuff as if it was water. When I went to escort her back to her family, was snorting something I’m pretty sure that if any of us were caught with it, we’d be expelled and facing jail time!” he swallowed again, finally pulling his eyes from the floor and meeting the commandants steely gaze. “Well sir, I was escorting her back to her room when she pulled me aside and started pawing at me. She did these wonderful things with her tongue and….”

“You couldn’t help yourself, so you decided to have sex with her,” commandant Arden finished for the Tiefling.

“Sir, yes sir,” Den nodded.

“Was she worth your life?”

The young cadet’s knees did buckle and he began to collapse, but somehow through sheer force of will, Den prevented himself from falling and he straightened his spine and his resolve together. The two demons in his stomach had finished their rutting and he could swear they were now cheering him on.

“Yes sir. That was the best sex I ever had!” His eyes drifted back to the image of him and the Aasimar, with her writhing and moaning, clearly enjoying his special ‘attention’.”

“At the end of this meeting,” the commandant said, waving obsidian hand through the video, cutting it off, “I am supposed to have you stripped of your ranking in the academy, thrown in cuffs and transported to the starport to be loaded onto a private shuttle owned by the Ambassador.”

“What?” Den blurted. He reached out, grabbed one of the two chairs and turned it enough so he could collapse into it. He opened and closed his mouth several times, feeling the fear of his soon to be short future looming like the executioner’s axe above his head.

“I have decided that this is not going to happen,” Commandant Arden told him, compassion filling his voice.

Taking in a deep breath, Den managed to meet the Commandant’s gaze. “Sir?”

“Although you don’t know it, and you can’t know it, the Ambassador’s daughter is very much the free spirit. Her family, especially her father, go out of their way to keep the news of her… exploits, out of the newsfeed and streams. I have told him not a chance in the Abyss would I turn you over to him.”

“Sir?” Den gaped.

“In fact, when he became insistent, I told him bluntly that if he did not drop his ridiculous demands and open his eyes to what his precious angel was really like I was personally going to release the footage before us to the feeds and streaming services!”

Den could not believe his ears. “Sir, why? I’ve been a trouble maker, you said so yourself, for years. Why take such a risk for me?”

 “Den,” the commandant said, his face relaxing and a slight smile creeping into existence. “As I said earlier, you have incredible potential. You are one of the best natural pilots I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot. You are highly intelligent; you have a quick mind and an imagination which will be of great use to you in the future. Just because some upstart half-blooded angel wannabe got upset his perfect daughter was not as pure as she pretended to be, doesn’t mean I will jump when he demands it.”

The young Tiefling said nothing, choosing to wait to hear out what his commandant had to say, also not trusting his voice, as the conflicting emotions running through his mind had the two demons in his belly scratching their collective heads in confusion.

Commandant Arden continued to hold Den’s gaze. “Anything to say, cadet?”

“Sir, sorry sir!” Den barked, standing at attention and finally banishing the two demons from his stomach. “Thank you sir!”

“This is quite un-usual, Cadet,” Arden continued. “Other commandants would have followed the demands of the ambassador and would have had you killed outright, but I am not one to throw potential talent out the airlock.” He leaned in until his face was only a handful of centimeters from Den’s. “Don’t make me regret this.”

Den swallowed, feeling his throat tighten with a mixture of fear and exhilaration. “Sir, I won’t sir!”

“In that case Den,” the commandant dropped the cadet, “Consider this disciplinary action at a close, and you are dismissed.”

“Sir, yes sir!” Den exclaimed.

“Remember this cadet,” The commandant said, his voice returning to its normal, neutral tenor. “You have less than a week to go, so no more practical jokes and do everything in your power to keep your nose clean. I don’t want to see you again, at least not until the graduation ceremonies.”

“Sir, yes sir, and thank you sir, and you won’t, I promise that sir!” He did a sharp about face and took several steps towards the exit before stopping and turning around to face the commandant.  

Commandant Arden raised one eyebrow and waited as the young Tiefling turned. “What is it?”

“Could I get a copy of that video of me and the ambassador’s daughter?”

“Get out!” the commandant roared, pointing his finger at the door.

Den actually squeaked in surprise as he turned and practically ran out of the room, the door closing behind him. He did not see the smile that formed on the Commandant’s face.

End

Chris Van Deelen is the creator and contributor to over half of the Wisdom from the Wastelands series, contributor to the Swords of Kos: Hekaton anthology, and the recently released 'Swords of Kos: The Rite'. He also wrote Creatures of the Tropical Wastelands, and 100 Oddities found in a Car. As prolific as he is, Chris Van Deelen continues to write and produce material which will be in publication soon. Not only is he a prolific content creator, he also has a wide selection of fiction and stories! If you like his work, please follow his personal author page on Facebook and on Twitter to keep up with his latest news and game content.