Earth First, of Course
by Duke of Ramus
I'd like to thank Mulligan for his assistance in turning this into a better story than my initial effort.
Also thanks to the Swarm Universe authors group for their comments, corrections and ideas.
Any errors remaining are of course mine.
"Is everything ready?"
Herbert Beard turned to the speaker and managed to smile in response, "Fred, when have I ever let you down?" His smile turned to a grin, "On second thought, don't answer that, you'll only bring up that blind date with your sister again."
Fred looked to the heavens momentarily, "Herbie..."
Herbert waved his arm along the seafront, "We've got three different marquees erected, the far one is for the rock crowd, the middle one is hip hop and this one, thank God is for us old fogeys." He nodded in the direction of a dark green vehicle parked reasonably close to the nearest marquee, "The Terriers have let us use their forty kilowatt generators and have even designated one of their number to join us in case there are any problems."
The Terriers was the nickname given to the Territorial Army and the local unit, a battalion of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers was always willing to help out the college whenever it could. The simple fact that soldiers liked looking at pretty young girls was a pretty good draw.
"So the tents are up and running," said Fred. "What about the food?"
"Since your mightiness gave the catering staff the day off as well as the rest of us minions we're having to rely on Benjamin's Restaurant for the food. But Maggie has been breathing down the necks of the crew that Bennies sent all morning and she assures me that there won't be any problems on that front." Margaret Tindle, or Maggie as she was known, was the head of catering for the college, a task she thought of as thankless but essential.
Herbert indicated an area roped off at the end of the beach, "They've set up barbecues at both ends of our beach front along with clean up areas and the bars."
Fred scowled, he was fifty-four years old and was having a hard time accepting the changes to the drinking age brought about by the universal acceptance of fourteen as the age of majority.
"Don't worry about it," said Herbie when he spotted the scowl, "I've detailed off the Phys. Ed. department to keep an eye on things and make sure that none of the kids drink too much."
Frederick Dalton, the principal of Highcliffe College ran a hand through his thinning grey hair and gave a nod of appreciation before slowly turning through three hundred and sixty degrees, "Can you think of anything we've forgotten, Herbie?"
"Fred, if we've forgotten anything it's too late now. The kids will be arriving in an hour so grab yourself a beer and try to relax until they get started." He chuckled, "There'll be enough going on then to raise your blood pressure without giving it a head start."
Giving the principal a squeeze on the shoulder Herbie led the older man towards the nearest bar, "You know Fred, I think this has been one of your better ideas. Things have changed so much in the last four years, ever since we were told about the Swarm and it's good to be doing something positive."
"Two Grolsch," ordered Fred from the young man behind the bar, "I know what you mean, Herbie. For the first couple of years I was running around, setting up the CAP testing and trying to implement all the rules the government sent out. Then we got that AI that was supposed to help us with the transition and all it did was tell us how wrong we were."
Herbie chuckled, "Yeah, and when we asked what it meant it replied that it couldn't tell us because we were so primitive."
"Primitive," snorted Fred, "I was all for pulling the plug on the damned thing until the powers that be finally got their fingers out and instructed the bloody machine to assist with the administration and we started to make progress."
He looked down the beach towards the other bar, "You know, I never suspected that I'd be giving the students beer, I always pictured that I'd be the one confiscating it."
Herbie raised the green Grolsch bottle, "That's the one good thing about school these days as far as I'm concerned." He took a sip of the cold beer, "What's really surprised me is how many of the students have stuck with it."
Fred raised an eyebrow in query and Herbie continued, "Don't get me wrong, I might be the vice-principal but I'm still a teacher at heart. When the coming of the Swarm was announced I was convinced that the Confederacy would cherry pick the best of the best, high academic qualifications along with a perfect body would be the order of the day. No one was more surprised than I was when that didn't happen, I was totally gobsmacked when a willingness to give up a human's basic rights was a better selling point than being a genius."
He took another swig from the bottle, "Once all that became general knowledge I expected attendance to fall through the floor, what was the point in attending school if it wasn't going to mean anything in ten years time?"
"I think a lot of us believed that we'd be out of a job," agreed Fred nodding, "and for awhile things did start to fall away but as people began to realise just how few were going to be saved that trend reversed."
"The riots," scowled Herbie. "At least the improvement in attendance was something to thank Earth First for, even if there's nothing else."
Fred snorted, "I can't think of anything else they've done right," he said.
The party had barely started when Adonis and his girlfriend Penelope arrived, the young man, whose looks lived up to his name, had no difficulty parking his battered pickup near to the beach.
"Come on gorgeous, let's see who's here and if there's anything worth joining in with," he called as he slammed the driver's door shut. By the time he'd pushed the keys into his denim cut-offs Penny had his free hand in hers.
"Have you any idea what this is all about?" she asked.
"Only the official version," he replied as his blue eyes scanned the beach for signs of anyone he knew.
"And you believe that?" asked Penny, her voice imply just how implausible she found that idea.
"For once I do," replied Adi, pulling his girl's topless body against his own naked torso. "Look at all the trouble they've gone to just for us." He kissed Penny's cheek and continued, "The idea of allowing us to meet the staff in a non-academic setting is a good one though it should probably have been done at the beginning of the year rather than halfway through."
"But why this weekend, everyone knows we head to Spain for a bit of sex, sun and sangria over this weekend."
Adi frowned, "And that's probably the main reason for having it now," he said. "Look at what happened last year with that gang that took advantage of those cheap flights. My guess, and that's all it is, is that they want to get us off to a slow, call it more controlled start to the break. We can begin partying here in a safe environment before we hit the wilder shores. I'm betting that after today half the kids who are here won't even leave town."
Penny pursed her lips in thought, "What about us, are we still going?"
"You bet," he replied, "You know I had to get a special dispensation to arrive a day late as it was. There's no way I'm going to miss out on any more training than I have to with the Swarm heading this way."
Penny hugged hard against the muscled upper body of her lover as they reached the beach level. "There's Angel and Desiree," she murmured nodding in the direction of two good-looking girls who stood near the bar. "Let's go join them."
The couple changed their direction and ambled towards the friends. Alongside them, waiting to be served, was a bunch of lads who were just a little on the rowdy side. The two girls, like many of the others near the bar were edging away from the group whilst eyeing them nervously.
Adi exchanged nods with Joel Vance, the head of physical education who was watching the lads with a growing sense of mistrust. He stood back as the three girls exchanged hugs and kisses then asked, "Do you two need a refill?"
Desiree glanced back at the bar and then down at her glass.
"Don't worry," chuckled Adi, "I'm going into the lion's den and I'll bring back whatever you want."
"White wine and soda," said Desiree, smiling in relief.
"Just a lemonade for me," said Angel.
"Your usual, Penny?"
Penny nodded then looked around, "We'll wait over by the marquee," she said.
"OK, see you in a minute."
The trio of beauties headed for the relative safety of the marquee as Adi made his way to the bar. The talk around him was loud, and in some cases profane, but he ignored it and tried to catch the eye of the bartender.
"Look, I'm telling you that our wonderful government is not going to force the Confederacy to take us all," said a short guy with dark hair and glasses. "As long as this bunch of buffoons remains in power we," his hand waved to encompass the group, "are doomed."
"And how are we supposed to get rid of these 'buffoons'?" asked a lad with dirty blond hair. "They don't need to hold another election for three years and I'm willing to bet that they'll be able to come up with a reason to put that off as well."
"Stage a revolution?" asked a swarthy skinned individual from the edge of the group.
"That's one option but that always leaves the new government open to a charge of being illegal," said the lad with the glasses. "No, the best method is a systematic demonstration of public disillusionment with the current incumbents. If they can't get anything done because the people will no...