Part Eighteen of You Will Find Your Way
It’s only the first day of classes, but Dallas isn’t going to have any credibility with Giselle’s students.
As the last of the students file out of the lecture hall, Dallas flops back on the molded plastic chair that’s tucked to the side of the podium, “Well that was thrilling,” she drawls, her fingers digging into the skin below her right arm.
Giselle hums from the other side of the room, where she’s finally filing through all of her reference notes, “Why are you doing that thing with the sarcasm?” Her tone is distant enough that Dallas is surprised she even picked up on the inflections. “I thought everything went fine.”
Stretching her arms, Dallas grunts when her shoulders pop, “I’m just saying that maybe you shouldn’t introduce me the way you did.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Giselle finally looks up. “Telling everyone that you all have more degrees than Dallas has spent days in college, but even though she can’t explain why you’re wrong, it doesn’t mean she doesn’t know what she’s talking about and you need to fix your work before I see it, is not the way for me to get any credibility with like, eighty-percent of your nerds. I mean, they all know you’re crazy and for some reason thought it was a good idea to take your class anyway, but at least I had a chance to gain some respect before you started talking.”
Giselle drops her papers, crosses her arms over her chest, and huffs, “Shut up,” she grumbles, sullen. “You know I’m bad at public speaking.”
“You’re bad at about ninety percent of your life, but I still love you.”
The rest of the day goes pretty much just like their morning did, mostly because Giselle is completely incapable of shutting up when she’s on a roll. So naturally, they end the day with Giselle having a moderate amount of credibility and Dallas having absolutely none.
When their last students of the day file out, they hear the long, slow sounds of exaggerated clapping, and both turn toward the sight of Doctor Sweeney standing just inside the entrance, “That was quite the opening lecture, Professor Quiggle.”
Dallas coughs around the words that’s Doctor Giselle Quiggle, and the woman in question glares at her before she pastes a smile on her face, “It’s been wonderful to have the chance to get back in front of the classroom, Peter. How are you today?”
He blithely ignores Dallas, who rolls her eyes and goes about getting all their things together, and Giselle takes a couple steps toward Doctor Sweeney to take him of the potential attention off of her.
“I’m well, thanks,” he says with an exaggerated nod. “I check in with all the staff in our department on the opening days of the semester. And my offer to find you competent experience still stands.”
“I may have difficulties conveying it, but I have every confidence in Dallas’ competence,” Giselle has a smile in her voice, and Dallas does a little happy dance. “But thank you, once again, for the unnecessary offer.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Dallas watches Doctor Sweeney purse his lips at the obvious dismissal, and while it’s great to see him look like he ate some bad fish, he’s probably not the person Giselle should piss off so quickly, even if the president of the university was the one to invite her to finish her research in the first place.
But what does Dallas know?
She doesn’t have a Bachelor’s, let alone a PhD, or two.
Dallas rolls her eyes and gathers Giselle’s paperwork in her arms. When Doctor Sweeney is gone, she looks at Giselle, “So, that went swimmingly. Let’s get lunch on the university’s dime before he decides to get you fired.”
“He wouldn’t do that.”
“I’m sure he’s got Doctor Preston from UCLA on speed dial.”
Giselle sours again, “What have I told you about bringing him up?”
“Only ever do it when we have easy access to his picture and a dart board.”
Somewhere Else, In Another Time
“I. Hate. Everything.”
Mathias chuckles at Dallas as they slog through the forest, headed back to camp after a day that included them taking a header off a relatively small cliff and landing in one of the region’s so-called waterways.
Unfortunately, the waterways on this world are filled with a strange, milky substance that’s closer to oil and is definitely not drinkable.
And it’s extremely flammable.
Since Dallas landed ahead of Mathias, she ended up face-planting in most of the mess, while Mathias was lucky enough to land half on her, and half in the dusty shallows.
Night fell soon after they dragged themselves from the muck, so Dallas is shivering, cold, and holds her blade curved over her knuckles in case there are any alien animals lurking nearby.
Everything is just the worst.
Another heavy footfall sends a cloud of dust that puffs around their legs and sticks, turning the black of their pants and boots a dusty, orange-gray.
“I’m going to have to find new boots,” she grumbles, mostly to herself. “And I just broke these in. You know, this is all your fault,” she snaps in Mathias’ general direction when he cackles again.
“Oh, how so?” He shoots back, the amusement in his voice making everything go red for a second.
Dallas stops walking, jabs him in the chest with a slimy finger, “Because you needed to go on this stupid day trip to get that stupid book and you tripped over the stupid tree roots. All for a goddamn book that we couldn’t even find. You know how I feel about books.”
“Yeah, but you came with me anyway.”
She glares, swipes a messy hand over the front of his tunic and stalks off toward camp.
When they finally return to the confines of the safety barrier, Dallas darts off to the baths with a glare, kicks everyone else out before she dives into the water. Later, when she’s finally free of the gunk, she’s toweling off her hair while padding over to the mess tent to grab something to eat.
“Oh Dallas, you’re back,”
“Damn, damn, damn,” she hisses before wiping the scowl from her face and turning around.
Maris is a few feet away, fresh and clean and looking just as primed for battle as she always does, and she nods once, “Yeah. Sorry I couldn’t come to debrief. Your son pushed me into a river and I didn’t want to catch fire.”
That earns a chuckle from Maris, one that sounds like she belongs at some fancy garden party on Earth and not in the middle of some weird alien war zone, “You’re forgiven,” she says. “I actually have some good new.”
“Really? Have we made progress on the thing?”
“No more than usual, and it didn’t help that you and Mathias were unable to recover the text,” she says, but doesn’t sound like it was their fault or anything, so at least there’s that. “But it’s not going to be a concern for you much longer.”
“Because we’ve found the way to send you home.”
You Will Find Your Way continues with Part Nineteen
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