During the night, the staff disappeared. It was quick, and nobody saw – or even heard – a thing, but every single member of staff was gone before any of the recruits knew it.
There were those who did find out soon afterwards, though. Archie woke Kravitz with a quick shake of the shoulders.
“They’ve gone!” he whispered, not wishing to wake any of the other boys in the dormitory.
“What?” There was not much light, but Kravitz could just about make out Archie’s silhouette against the glow from the corridor that came through the half-open dormitory door. He knew instantly it was Archie from the half-cynical, half-mischievous voice he’d grown up with over the past five years at the Academy.
“Who’s gone?” Kravvy asked, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
“The matron’s gone, the officer on the watch is gone – all of the staff have gone!” Archie clarified.
“Yeah – vanished.”
“They can’t’ve,” Kravvy said, but the unrefined excitement in his friend’s voice was highly contagious. He could feel a little mischief coming – he always seemed to be dragged along when Archie got itchy feet. And usually it led to trouble.
“They have,” Archie’s voice pierced the silent darkness, and almost in anticipation of his next suggestion, Kravvy’s heartbeat had already quickened. “Come on,” Archie said, “let’s go take a look!”
Tip-toeing out of the room, they slipped through the door, closing it behind them to keep their discovery to themselves. Out in the corridor, there was no matron. Usually, there was a matron on duty, all through the night. Either The Witch or the Wolf or the Hyena. Sometimes Kravvy felt sorry for them – after all, every three nights they had to work when everyone else slept. But out here it wasn’t such a hardship for them, the night shift. What was the difference between night and day, after all? Most of the lights in the school were on in the day and most of the children were around. There could be no ‘unsociable’ hours out here – matrons had no social lives anyway. Besides, when they roared orders at the young recruits, they lost all possible sympathy, at least that was what Kravvy thought.
But there was no one here now. The matrons were gone.
The dull lights were also a signal that all wasn’t right. Looking ahead, he could make out Archie’s silhouette – his characteristic sprawl of curly hair that flouted all the regulations unlike Kravvy’s own close-cut hair – but all details were cut out by the lack of light. Archie gestured for him to follow him out. The air conditioning was slightly chilling against Kravitz’ bare top as he tiptoed after his curly-haired friend to the next ‘safe’ vantage point at the end of their dormitory’s corridor.
“I was just up to get a drink of water,” Archie whispered, a little louder here now that they were away from prying ears. “And there was no matron.”
“That doesn’t mean there’s no one around,” Kravitz said, his heart beating like a bass drum at a rock concert as he felt suddenly very vulnerable out there dressed in nothing but a pair of PJ bottoms.
Archie smiled an all-knowing smile, the edges of his face just picking up the dull grey light. He was a brainy one, Archie; and over the years they’d been to the Academy together, Kravitz had quickly learned to trust both his word and his judgement. Just that smile set him at ease considerably. “I had a quick explore on my own,” he told Kravitz. “A bit of research to test my hypothesis, you might say.”
“And I didn’t see any matrons outside the other dorms, either. And no officers wandering between.”
“No one at all?”
“Nope. And the lights around our wing are all turned down like this.”
Kravitz felt a shiver shoot down his spine, a mixture of excitement, nerves and the cold air. “What do we do?” he asked, making himself feel like the stupid one, but he wasn’t. You couldn’t help feeling a little unintelligent around Archie. That was why he wasn’t very popular.
“Don’t you want to find out what’s happened?” Archie’s face was alive, his eyes full of the thrill of the unauthorised. “Don’t you want to know?”
“Well… kinda…” the taller, more athletic Kravitz replied nervously, his muscles trembling slightly from the adrenaline flooding through his system.
“I thought you wanted to be a colonist some day?”
“I never said I was certain… it’s my parents who said I should…”
“Come on, it’ll be an adventure,” the curly-haired boy said, poking his head around the corner into the larger hallway outside. “We can explore, see how far we get – just like being a colonist.”
“What if you’re wrong? What if we get caught?”
“Come on, Kravvy! Where’s your sense of adventure? If we get caught then so be it – we’ll just have to be careful. But I tell you, there’s nobody to catch us.”
“They could be trying out some new kind of surveillance system…”
“When have they ever tried any ‘new system’? Everything’s been the same for five years! We haven’t even seen the outside world – it’s time for a little exploring. It’s like a prison in here, not a damn military school.”
“Look,” he put his hands on Kravitz’ shoulders, “trust me, okay? Have I ever got you in trouble before?”
“Plenty of times,” the taller boy smiled back, his white teeth visible in the low light.
“Great,” Archie grinned back and patted his companion on the arms briefly. “Never know, we might get as far as the girls’ end.”
It was true: they hadn’t seen the outside world in five years. Kravitz, like the rest of them, was a poor little rich boy whose parents had sent him to the most highly rated military academy in the solar system. A poor little rich boy from a family so large, his parents didn’t know what to do with him. He hadn’t seen them for five years, either.
As one of seven brothers, he’d long had the feeling he was superfluous to his parents’ needs. A drain on resources. He felt even more so here at Aurelius, one of the better-known military academies on Mars. It wasn’t even as though his brothers had been through the same as him: none of them had gone to Aurelius, they’d all gone to Charlemagne – the premier college on Earth.
“But you’re special,” his mother had said to the tearful thirteen-year-old. “You want to be a colonist, don’t you? You want to see beyond the Solar System. None of the others do. Being a colonist is the greatest adventure anyone could have! You’ll be a real hero, pushing back the boundaries of colonised space, travelling close to the speed of light to discover whole new solar systems!”
But did he want to be a colonist? Did anyone really want to be a colonist past the age of twelve? It was a fine pipe dream for children brought up on exciting science fiction movies and games, but the Federation had advertised lavishly for years after the perfection of the near-light ships, and only a trickle of men and women signed up to stretch the boundaries of human existence. The government was offering massive incentives to families sending their children to the stars now, and even then it was a fairly unpopular thing to do.
His parents had always encouraged his childhood pipe dreams, which had been little more than his puerile attempt to stand out from his siblings, but right now, Kravvy wasn’t so sure he wanted to be a colonist. This military school was supposed to help him make his mind up, though – everyone knew being a colonist was an extremely tough thing to be, but this school was supposed to provide the lessons to make them see that they could do it if they were good enough and worked hard and maintained discipline.
“It’ll be a tremendous honour for the family if you’re a colonist – you want that, don’t you?” his mother had said to him. “Imagine how incredible it would be to see alien landscapes, to lay your eyes on places that no one has ever laid eyes on!”
And even if he didn’t want to be a colonist, she’d said, the fact that he’d been to this school meant that he’d have a huge advantage over others in the job market. That’s what her parents had said, anyway. But Kravvy wasn’t sure what he wanted to do any more. He wasn’t sure he wanted to be so far away from other people. What if something dangerous happened, and there was no army to protect them?
“Come on!” Archie said, snapping his mind back to reality.
“You’re sure we’re not being watched?”
“Positive – I’m all right, aren’t I? I’ve been sneaking around for half-an-hour or more.”
Archie had never wanted to be a colonist – it was just that his wealthy parents didn’t like him. Worse than Kravvy’s situation, Archie was the illegitimate son of two prominent politicians on separate sides of the Martian Senate. Archie wasn’t just unwanted: he was an embarrassment to his parents. He’d taken a keen sense of self-reliance from that, though, which was why he sometimes got in trouble.
“Girls’ wing’s that way,” Archie said, “but the entrance is down on floor two, so we should go this way.” He pointed down the large spiral staircase made of polished-wood and covered by a rich red carpet - was one of the many remnants of the building’s past as an enormous Martian mansion house for a multi-trillionaire eccentric.
“There’s a back entrance on floor nine – might be safer,” Kravvy said. But the whole place seemed so different in the darkness – Kravvy had been there for five years, knew the whole place like the back of his hand except the Girls’ end, and he was finding it difficult to orientate himself even though they were just round the corner from their own dorm corridor.
“The NCOs’ dorms are on floor eight – I’m not going through there, whether the staff have gone or not,” Archie said. “Come on, floor two.”
He followed Archie. Archie had always been one to take risks – whenever they played dares after lights-out, it was always Archie that went furthest, did the most daring thing and left the game un-playable for any who wanted to compete. He’d been inside some of the Non-Commissioned Officers’ dorms – Kravvy had only twice dared even go on the same floor.
But now was different – Archie had said he’d been wandering around for half an hour without seeing a trace of the teachers. As they all knew, you could get halfway across school in half an hour – every now and then they had dare time trials, to see how far each person could go in a set time, or the variation: to see how long it took to get to certain places. Archie was always best at that sort of thing. He took risks.
So he had to have strayed quite far without seeing anyone.
They dashed down the stairs – there was no cover on the stairwell, nowhere to hide. It finished on floor three, they had go through a few corridors and round some twisted hallways before finding the stairs to floor two.
Then, suddenly, they heard a noise.
Both of them froze to the spot, backs to the wall, hoping against hope that it was just one of those old-house creaks you get just from it being an old house. Kravvy shivered. Was it from the cold? He wasn’t particularly cold – though the air was slightly chilly from the air conditioning.
The main thing was this: they’d been there at the school for five years, and it was getting on for graduation time. Unlike other schools, the graduation ceremony was for all five year-groups at once – they all started at Aurelius at the same time, they all finished at the same time. The Aurelius Academy education was a sought-after thing – nowhere else were boys and girls of different ages were offered the chance to benefit from the mix of experience and youth, scientifically proven to provide a better all-round education.
But unlike other schools, there was no progression: Kravvy’s year group had started at the bottom and would end at the bottom of the heap of seniority. And he’d suffered too much at that level to risk it all now he was so close to graduation.
What if this night of apparent indiscipline was a final test before graduation? Those boys and girls who played along as usual would pass, those who apparently took advantage of the lack of supervision to run riot would fail.
Was this someone coming to catch them?
After what seemed like an age, Kravvy’s heart beat slowed down again and his breathing returned to relative normality. Nothing. It was nothing. The noise was obviously just an old floorboard contracting.
“Shall we?” Archie whispered.
“Sure,” Kravvy said. It now had to be at least half an hour since they’d left the dorm – sneaking takes times – and he felt more disconnected from his warm, comfortable bed than ever. How far had Archie gone before? Had he come this far? What if there were teachers or matrons further than this? What if they started to relax too much and assume that their theory was right, that for some reason none of the staff were around tonight? They might get careless, they might do something stupid, they might rush out into a hoard of trouble.
It was one of the darker corridors, this, and it left Kravvy feeling distinctly disempowered. But still, he tip-toed onwards, following Archie.
Suddenly – another noise.
A clump and then a small high-pitched yelp.
“What the hell?” he heard Archie exclaim.
A light came on in front – a thin beam of light, which the years of boarding there and messing about after lights-out meant Kravvy instantly recognised it as a torch light.
“What are you doing here?” he heard Archie say and walked around the corner to find Archie standing there with two of the girls in their year – Selena Mandia and Victoria Simpson.
“You guys never play ‘dares’?” Selena was saying to Kravvy’s friend.
“’Course!” Archie said.
The torchlight moved and Kravvy squinted as it flashed over his face and eyes.
“Hey, it’s Kravvy!” Selena said chirpily. Victoria was keeping quiet. “We could do it here!” she nudged her friend.
Selena was the one with the looks – and how she looked that night! Dressed in little more than a soft white cotton night shirt that only just reached down to her thighs, the mere glimpse he got in the torchlight of her pretty face, framed as it was by her light brown hair – and those devastating big green eyes – it was enough to set Kravvy’s pulse racing.
“Do what?” Archie asked, his jaw visibly dropping at the sight of the two girls in their nightwear. None of the boys ever saw the girls in their nightwear – this was amazing!
“She has to kiss a boy – I have to make sure she does.” Victoria said, sounding bored, unimpressed. She didn’t have Selena’s looks, Kravvy thought, but she wasn’t unattractive. Her messy black hair didn’t do her any favours, and those spectacles gave her face a cynical look, but what really killed off her appeal was her generally cold nature towards the rest of humanity. Archie had always said it was something that needed to be thawed – but Kravvy never knew if that was one of his little jokes or not.
“Come on Kravvy, do a girl a favour!” Selena suddenly draped her arms around him.
Kravitz shivered slightly as a warm feeling erupted within him. He could feel his cock swelling and the warmth spreading as the girl leaned against him, her sweet scent flooding his senses, her warm breath tickling his face as her mouth drew near to his. She was going to kiss him! Selena, one of the best-looking girls in school was going to kiss him!
“How about it?” she said softly, seductively, her soft hands sweeping over the bare skin of his chest.
Kravvy could not see properly – the torchlight was somewhere else, flashing around, as though Archie was fighting with Victoria for it – but he felt Selena’s body press against his, her heat flowing through the thin, soft cotton shirt she wore, her soft breasts pressing against his chest.
Then suddenly Selena’s lips were pressing at his, and it was as if a sweet explosion detonated within him. Kravvy had never been close to a girl before – the school’s discipline was strict in that sense – yet as she kissed him, it felt like the most natural, wonderful sensation on Earth.
For a moment, he was embarrassed and worried that she would feel his hardness, but that feeling soon passed as he realised she was pressing herself against it, grinding her crotch against his own, actively celebrating his reaction to her touch.
Her hands were moving down towards his behind now, pressing him towards her, and he found his own hands naturally reaching her behind, and he felt that her nightshirt was riding up as she reached up to kiss him, and his fingers found soft, warm, bare skin down there, so rounded and velvety, the upper-most portions covered by the thin cotton of her underwear.
If the lights had been on, she would have seen his eyes widen as his fingers spread over her sensuous curves and she moaned quietly – it was incredible. But then, suddenly, she’d broken off, torn away from him – gone…
“Come on – we’ll be caught!” a forced whisper from Victoria as she pulled her friend away from Kravvy.
“Toria!” Selena whined.
Kravitz was shivering and tingling all over, but his body craved somehow seemed to mourn the lost touch of her soft warmth and the sweet scent that surrounded her irresistibly female form.
Wow. Had what had happened really happened?
“Girls, girls!” That was Archie. Had he seen what Selena had done to him? Kravvy could hardly believe it himself. He’d never thought she might find him attractive – but then the genders were kept apart so efficiently at Aurelius that there was never any sign that anyone found anyone attractive there.
“There’s no one to catch us!” Archie was saying – a little way away now. Kravvy jogged to catch up, and came through into a hallway where there was a touch more light available.
And he caught sight of her. Even in the limited grey light, she was an exquisite site. Her white cotton nightshirt teased his gaze, flaunting what she had underneath yet keeping it covered. Her straight, shoulder-length hair, parted in the middle and tied in two pigtails framed her elfin, pretty face. Her own eyes met his, packing a punch through his stomach from their sensationally elegant beauty, reflecting her mischievous smile as she silently shared with him recollection of what had just happened between them in the dark.
It had happened.
He couldn’t help but quiver from nervous but thrilled excitement.
And there were no teachers around.
“Sure there is,” Victoria broke the silence.
“There isn’t – me and Kravvy’ve gone round the whole place,” Archie lied, “there’s no one to be found.”
“Crap,” Victoria said cynically. “They’re probably just having a party somewhere – they’ll be in the officers’ mess or something.”
“Well think about it – if there was one place they’d be to make sure we didn’t stray, where would it be?” He asked. “The connection between the girls’ end and the boys end, surely? The very fact that you’re here…”
“What if they just left for a few minutes?” Victoria said. Kravvy was getting a little cold and increasingly nervous – he wasn’t too keen on just hanging about in the open there. Whether Archie was right or not, they had no guarantees. Victoria went on: “What if they were all called away for an important meeting, and because it’s been five years since we all started here, they thought for one night we’d know not to go out of bounds?”
Archie scratched his head. “That wouldn’t happen,” he said a bit weakly.
“What if they come back, and they’re on their posts before we can get back to our end?” Victoria said.
Kravvy looked at Selena. She was already looking at him, but the issue of where the staff were was on neither of their minds – he could tell that she was thinking about the same thing as him – what had happened between them. There was a pause since Archie couldn’t think of a come-back to Victoria’s cynicism.
“Why don’t we go look for them?” Selena said, slightly unexpectedly.
“What?” Victoria snapped back.
“Yeah,” she said, “we could go looking, and if we run into them, we could say… I don’t know… one of us is sick, or something, we needed to find someone.”