143. Class on Cyan

This is the third post for Teacher Appreciation week.

Until I retired, I called myself a novelist who taught, rather than a teacher who wrote books. It was a bit like a British officer dressing for dinner in his tent while serving in India – not a denial of the moment, but a reminder-to-self that present circumstances were only temporary.

My attitude was not disrespectful. I dedicated my complete energy to teaching for nearly three decades, and counted it an honorable profession. I just had further plans.

Some of the things I learned as a teacher spilled over into my writing. I wrote  a teaching novel (35. Symphony in a Minor Key) and Keir, the lead character in Cyan, took up teaching ecology and survival education to the colonists’ children, walking quite literally in my footsteps.


The snow started in the afternoon, first as scattered flakes, but soon clinging to the kaal stalks and frosting the gray-purple bowl of the valley with white.  Will turned to Keir for advice, something he rarely had to do any more.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Keir replied. “It looks like this snow shower will pass quickly.  We’ll push on a few more kilometers and make camp by the river. When we set up the tents, have them staked carefully. Ramananda said we could expect heavier weather when Procyon sets.”

Will nodded and turned away to organize his troop. Then he touched his throat mike and relayed Keir’s advice to Marci’s group who were coming in from another angle and still out of sight in the forest that rimmed the valley.

Most of Will’s kids were about twelve, and this was their graduation exercise. After two years of laying the groundwork, Keir had convinced the council to devote most of the seventh year of the colony’s school to Cyanian ecology and survival techniques. Keir had taught the first few years, but since they had turned sixteen, Will, Marci, and Sven Aressen had taken over the day to day teaching. Keir remained as mentor, and planned each graduation trip.

A few of these kids had seen snow trickling down onto city streets on Earth when they were six or seven, but none of them, including their young leaders, had ever seen snow falling in a natural environment. They were wide eyed with wonder.

They had taken a cargo skimmer eight hundred kilometers north from Crowley and had come the last hundred kilometers on foot. Except for the brief sweep through the region which Keir and Gus had made three weeks earlier, no one had ever explored this area. That was the essence of the exercise; it was real. The land was new and the dangers were only partially known.

The second party broke out of the trees across the valley. Keir glassed them. Marci Nicholas was waving her arms about, pointing out something, still teaching. She was a natural. Gus stumped along beside her.

Keir turned back to his own group, who had quickly moved ahead of him. Each child carried a massive pack and a fletcher in a holster at his side. Only Will could have handled the recoil of one of the scout’s automatics, but those polymer rocket launchers were recoilless, just as deadly, and only a fraction of the weight.

These children were the cream. Of the four hundred children of their age group, these were the thirty who had passed every test, mental, physical, and moral, that Keir could devise. They had learned everything Keir had to teach them. Cyan’s Olympians. Keir smiled with pride, then hurried so they did not leave him behind.


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