“We have very strict behavioral standards here on Tenacity.”
A smooth, pleasant voice filled the air as Benjamin Westley entered the kitchen of his family’s new living quarters. It was the morning of his first day of school on the space station. Dean was lounging on the soft white leather couch in the living room, nursing his coffee, watching, “Welcome to Tenacity Prime” for the third time.
“Please keep in mind that any citizen over the age of ten can be deported, along with their guardian, for disturbing the peace. However, rest assured that these decisions are not made lightly.”
The voice went on about legal resources, accompanied by bright, animated visuals.
“How many times are you going to watch that, Dad?” Ben said as he served himself breakfast that his mom had delivered from the dining hall.
Dean gave Ben a weary look and turned back to the screen. “The first two times I watched it to retain the information. Now, I just don’t know what else to do with myself.”
Dean sighed. “A bit. I’ve only worked 15 years to get here.”
“That’s all you want?” Alicia said as she eyed Ben’s meager plate of food.
“I’m not very hungry, mom.”
Dean paused the video.
“Come over here and tell me about school.”
Ben reluctantly made his way over to the couch. He sat down next to Dean and started picking at his food.
“So? What are you taking?”
Ben hesitated. “Founding of Tenacity Prime, Accounting, Advanced Lit-”
“What’s your concentration?”
Ben paused, trying and failing to think of a convincing lie or half-truth.
“Um, law enforcement and military operations.”
“Law enforcement? and…Ben.” Dean sat up and leaned in. Ben braced himself for a lecture.
“That’s what he wants to study, Dean,” Alicia called out from the kitchen.
Dean pressed his lips together and closed his eyes.
“I just can’t… listen, you know how I feel… but you have to study what you’re interested in, your mom’s right.”
Bens stomach twisted in knots as he made his way to the education wing. He was terrified of getting lost. It was late Saturday night when their onboarding specialist, Henry, had led them through the corridors to their home, and they hadn’t ventured out since, spending all of their time unpacking and resting. The corridors of Tenacity Prime had been all but deserted on Saturday night, but now, on Monday morning, there were people everywhere, people who knew exactly where they were going.
To avoid standing out, Ben did his best to look like he knew where he was going as well, which got him completely lost. The map on his phone was easy to follow, but he began to panic and couldn’t decipher it. He stopped at a row of benches by a bay window and called his mom.
“What’s up, Benny?”
“I’m lost,” Ben said as quietly as possible.
“Well, where are you?”
“I don’t know. I’m lost.”
“There are directions on your phone.”
“I can’t understand them, Mom.” Ben’s throat tightened. He glanced around to see if anyone was looking at him.
Alicia sighed and fell silent for a moment.
“Oh, you know what? Call Henry.”
“Yes, really! This is exactly the kind of thing he’s for!”
Ben said goodbye to his mother and pulled up Henry’s contact information. He hesitated. Maybe if he tried a little harder he could find his own way.
Ben checked the time. It was 9:00 a.m., he was late.
Henry answered after one ring. “Good Morning, Ben! What can I do for you?”
“I-I’m supposed to be in class, but I don’t know where I am.”
“Darn. I should have offered to walk you to your classes, I knew I was forgetting something. I’ll be right there, Ben.”
“Wait, don’t you need to know where I am?”
“Oh, I know where you are. See you in a minute!”
As Ben waited for Henry, he pretended to browse through his phone. Tenacians whizzed by.
It wasn’t long before Henry appeared in a black suit.“Hey, Ben, I’m so sorry about this.”
“No, it’s not your fault,” Ben said as he stood up and followed Henry down the hall.
“It is, though. I should have remembered to offer to take you. I was flustered because the Belefontes showed up, and I just completely forgot.”
“Why did the Belafontes fluster you?”
“They’re the Belafontes. Lovely people, but so intimidating.”
“Yeah, I can see that. By the way, how did you know where I was?”
“Your chip, bud. You’re on my map.” Henry pulled out his phone and showed Ben the map he was referring to as they continued to walk.
“See, your dad made it to work. Thank God.” Henry pointed to a tag that read Dean Westley inside of a box labeled Station Design – Main Office.
“So, not everybody in the station is on your map,” Ben said as he noticed the discrepancy between the crowded halls and Henry’s map.
“Just my new citizens, and only for 90 days. Very few people have full map access. Most of them are in T-PEF.”
“Tenacity Prime Elite Force. You might be interested in joining?”
When they arrived at the education wing, Henry approached a tall, pale, severe looking man behind a grand, circular desk. Three hallways shot off west, north and east. There were several cozy looking seating areas around the massive open room. One was occupied by a small group of teenagers who were chatting quietly. A faux fireplace roared nearby.
“It’s totally my fault. I forgot to offer to walk him here and he got turned around,” Henry said to the man behind the desk.
The man raised an eyebrow. “A five year old could navigate our station map,” he said.
Henry furrowed his brow. “Gabe, this place is massive and busy. The poor kid probably still has ship lag.” Henry was nearly yelling and the teenagers at fireplace were looking over at them.
Gabe rolled his eyes and turned to his computer. He typed with incredible speed, then paused and beckoned Ben forward with his pointer finger.
“Okay, Mrs. Milan is ready for you in C30. The class is down that hall,” Gabe pointed to the hallway on the right. “From there the directions are pretty self explanatory, but Henry can escort you if you need him to.”
“Jerk,” Henry said quietly as he led Ben away from the desk a few steps. Gabe smirked.
“You’ll be fine, Ben. It’s alphanumeric from here on out. I’ll meet you by the elevators at three to take you back home,” Henry said.
“Thanks” Ben said, trying too hard to sound sure of himself.
Henry smiled, patted Ben on the arm, and left.
Ben easily found his way to C30, his Advanced Literature class. The door was open; Ben tentatively peeked his head around the corner and looked in. The petite brunette woman at the front of the room, presumably Mrs. Milan, looked up from the tablet she was holding and smiled.
“Hi. You can call me Ben.”
Ben entered the room. About a dozen curious faces watched him. There were a few unoccupied seats, and he chose one in the back corner of the room.
“Cute,” a girl with very long, dark hair whispered to her friend as Ben made his way past them.
“I guess,” her friend said.
“Where do you hail from, Ben?” Mrs. Milan asked.
“We’re all from Earth,” a lanky boy with a choppy haircut said. His arrogant smirk was so similar to Gabe’s, Ben wondered if they were related.
“That’s not true, there are plenty of people that were born on stations or other planets,” The long haired girl said.
“But we’re all humans, from Earth,” the boy said.
“Dominick, you don’t have to make an argument out of everything,” Mrs. Milan said. She turned her attention back to Ben and smiled. “Where exactly, Ben?”
“The States, Seattle, Washington”
“Oh, it’s lovely there! Welcome, we’re happy to have you and your family join us here on Tenacity.”
Just then, a girl entered the room, drawing everyone’s attention. Her blonde box braids swung around her waist as she rushed to her seat, flashing an apologetic smile at Mrs. Milan as she passed.
The girl turned around in her chair and greeted Dominick, and Ben caught a glimpse of familiar green eyes. This had to be Ebony Belafonte. She was just as perfect as her parents. Mrs. Milan stared at Ebony with an eyebrow raised as she and Dominick whispered to each other.
Finally, Ebony noticed Mrs. Milan staring at her expectantly.
“Sorry,” she said. “We got back at three this morning.”
Mrs. Milan nodded.
“Ebony was at an art show on the US station. She’s a talented painter,” Mrs. Milan said to Ben. Ebony whipped her head around and scanned the room. When her eyes settled on Ben, an electric surge radiated from his core.
“Ebony, this is Ben Westley.”
The corners of Ebony’s mouth just barely turned up.
Ben returned the greeting quietly and Mrs. Milan resumed class.
Ben’s morning classes continued uneventfully. At lunch, he sat in the mostly deserted educational wing lobby, reading on his phone. None of his classmates had seemed particularly friendly so far, and finding someone to sit with in the cafeteria, or worse, sitting by himself, sounded like a nightmare.
“Your name’s Ben, right?”
It was the girl who called him cute, from Advanced Lit. Her friend hovered behind her, looking disinterested.
“Yeah. Sorry, I don’t think I got your name in class.”
“Lauren. This is Stephanie. Do you want to come to lunch with us?”
The cafeteria resembled a high end mall food court, with vendors lining the walls and seating in the middle. As they ate sushi, Lauren and Stephanie peppered Ben with questions, which he answered distractedly. His eyes kept wandering a couple tables away, where Ebony Belafonte was chatting happily with Dominick and several other friends.
“She’s as evil as she is beautiful,” Stephanie said.
“Who?” Amber said, swiveling her head around. “Ebony?” She whispered as she turned back.
“He keeps looking at her.”
“I’m not looking at her. I’m just looking around. Everywhere,” Ben said.
“Okay, new boy, whatever you say.”
“Stephanie, be nice. To Ben, I mean. Say whatever you want about her.”
Ben laughed. “Why, what’s her deal?”
“She thinks she’s better than everyone because she’s a Belafonte, and her dad is the ambassador. There are plenty of high ranking people related to one of the founders here, but the Belafonte’s act like they own the place,” Stephanie said.
“Well, Zachary Belafonte is the most well known of the founders. I couldn’t even name the other ones,” Ben said.
“Zachary was a genius,” Stephanie said. “But his family has been leeching off his reputation for five generations.”
Ben watched Ebony and her friends get up and leave the cafeteria.
“What time is it? Seems like people are leaving,” he said.
“It’s twelve fifty-five. Damn, lunch is over,” Lauren said. “What’s your next class?”
“Intro to Tenacity Prime Elite Force.”
“You want to be in T-PEF?” Lauren said, impressed.
“I’m interested, but the acceptance rate is so low, I’m not going to get my hopes up.”