It was a stuffy, impossible day, and the boys had been spoiling for a fight all morning. Juno half-closed her eyes against the clamour of shifting light and hoped that they would find someone else to take it out on. They were in the observation room for the flight simulator module, and deprived of the ability to rock on their chairs or throw staple weighted paper bullets at each other she knew that sooner or later their eyes would fall on her corner of the class.
She tilted her head inconspicuously to observe the progress of Roman's glowingly foul temper. He had been her chief tormentor for the past few days, ever since she'd joined the cadet group. It wasn't unexpected; as the first female to join their competitively driven group she had known exactly what she was taking on. But now things were coming to a head, and the stifling weather was doing nothing to help her.
“I suppose you're going to 'show us how to do it', then,” Roman jeered loudly. He was on the other side of the room, but the group parted so that there was a narrow channel down which his words could reach their target.
Juno sighed inwardly, and twisted in her stool so that she was facing him. “Am I?” she asked mildly. “I thought you were top of the leaderboard for flight sim.”
“You're the hotshot,” he hissed. “Teacher's slut. Flown in from Metro specially to show us what's what.” His last two sentences had brought him across the observation room, and now he loomed uncomfortably above her, smelling unmistakably of adrenalin and irritation.
She shrugged, and turned away. “If you say so.”
“What, letting it go, hotshot? Not going to stand up for yourself?”
The rest of class had formed a semicircle around them, waiting in breathless anticipation. No-one knew what would happen. The ordinary script of punch-throwing and machismo seemed... unlikely.
But they were disappointed. Commander Conrad came into the room on a breath of peppermint and choleric.
“Scrapping, are we? Get your sorry backsides into the simulators. Group One's up, and if your scores aren't better than last week then so help me you'll be scrubbing decks for a month!”
Juno settled her shoulders and sat back to watch the scores mounting. She paid particular attention to the red marker which indicated Roman's leading position. A small smile twitched the corners of her mouth. He was good. He was very good. All the cadets had to complete the same course in the same amount of time, receiving scores for each type of target they hit on the way through. Of course, some targets were almost impossible to miss. But others were hidden, or cunningly disguised as lethal obstacles. Roman's score ticked steadily upwards in all the categories, quickly outstripping the others in his group.
When the first group came back into the observation room, he was obviously pleased with himself, and shouldered roughly past her as she waited to file into the simulator room. With Commander Conrad glaring at them he didn't dare do more than flash his challenge at her. Beat that, hotshot! It was very nearly a perfect score.
Juno's marker was grey. It seemed an age to the waiting cadets before she was strapped in and the sim run started. Every eye in the observation room was fixed on the little grey triangle.
She finished the run with perfect zeros in every category.
Bravo, grade nines! That's my best effort at keeping a short story under 500 words - and it's 579 words. Yikes... so much for setting achievable assignments?