Now that I'm waiting on feedback on the Ninja Librarian, I thought I'd keep my chops in shape with some short stories, and a writing prompt is a nice starter. So I followed Gus's link to http://thestorystarter.com/ and clicked the random phrase generator until I got something I liked (I did notice a certain tendency to reuse a few phrases. Lots of stories about avoiding arguments!). I settled on the prompt,
The veteran kindergartener threw a feather within the space ship to avoid the argument.
Here's my story:
Feathers in Space
"Class! Class! Please line up for roll-call!" The teacher sounded weary, even at the start of the day, as all adults did in the gravitational sector of the ship. Children were allowed to spend at most two hours a day in zero G, but to save power--the artificial gravity field took a lot of power--most of the ship had little or no gravity, and adults spent little time under gravitational pull. So even the teacher, who was in the Field more than most, moved and spoke slowly and with fatigue.
Max knew that. He'd been in he kindergarten class for as long as he could remember--at least two sets of children had come and gone while he stayed on. He couldn't believe that only he had figured out that graduating from kindergarten was for chumps. He'd talked to older kids--they could have been his brothers; who knew? No one knew their family on the ship. Families were a luxury, like gravity. Everything was communal, and the population was strictly managed to maintain the exact number of inhabitants desired.
Anyway, those older kids had told him the sad truth: after kindergarten there was no more nap time, which was a good thing, but there were no more snacks, either. And you had to learn strange things called grammar and algebra, and the history of the Earth, which seemed stupid even to a little kid.
Earth might as well be a myth, for all the good it would do them. The colony ship was never going back, and wherever they were going, it would be different. Even the youngest kindergarteners, who were a lot younger than Max, could figure that out. Besides, the teen who had taught him the skills needed to survive in the Ship said that they wouldn't even get there in Max's lifetime. He would spend his life on the Ship, which was fine with Max.
So Max decided early on that he'd just stay in kindergarten, with the toys and snacks. The teachers never seemed to notice--they had to rotate teachers in and out every few weeks. Max thought it was because the gravity took such a toll on them. Or maybe it was the children. Karl, his teenaged friend, said it was so that all the adults could spend enough time in the gravity field to stay healthy. The actual teaching was done by computers, anyway, so the teacher didn't matter much.
Whatever. The rotating teachers meant that no one really kept track of things. Including Max.
He was starting to get taller, though, and soon someone was going to ask the question he didn't want to answer: how old was he, anyway?
In fact, the teacher, having gotten them all to line up--the last teacher had insisted they sit in their desk-pods for roll, so it was a change and took them by surprise--was calling down the list of names. Of their full names, which gave Max a jolt.
"Suzy TenSevenTwelve. Johann FourTwentytwoTwelve." Since no one knew his--or her, needless to say--parents, children were surnamed by their hatchdate. First names came from a random name generator in the Ship's computer. Later, they would get surnames to match their work specialties.
"Maxwell SevenForuteenTen." The teacher halted. She looked around for the child who matched the name. "Maxwell? Is this correct? Are you a Ten child?
Max pretended he didn't know who she was talking to. It didn't work. He stood a head taller than any other child in the class.
"Maxwell," the teacher asked, confused but trying to be kind. "Have you had a problem with kindergarten?"
Max shook his head. No, he had no problem with kindergarten at all. That was why he was staying. But that didn't seem to be what the woman meant.
"It looks as though they haven't moved you on to first grade. Or," she looked at him dubiously, "have they misprinted your hatchdate?"
Max didn't like the direction this was taking. Desperately, he looked around for a distraction. Suzy was playing with a large feather, collected from some bird in the farm area--another place where they had to keep the gravitational field on. Max reached over, snatched the feather, and threw it toward Rommel. It wasn't much of a missile, but Rommel could always be counted on to raise a distracting fuss.
Suzy yelled, but the feather never reached Rommel. Caught by the steady suction from the air duct, it moved further upward, and disappeared into the opening, where there should have been a grate. That morning, there wasn't.
As everyone stared at the place where the feather no longer drifted, an alarm began to sound.
Max had a very bad feeling about this. He'd been in kindergarten along enough to know.