Robin is Really Smart

Robin is Really Smart

This was a random sequence that popped into my head one day and stuck around. Sometimes these are my favorite kind of scenes to write. This may not be a defining moment in Domerin’s life, nor even in Robin’s, but it is certainly one that Domerin lingers over when he thinks of his experience with child rearing.
. . .

“Thank you for coming to talk to me today, Mister Lorcasf.” The headmaster’s smile was disconcerting, lacking any sign of genuine joy, as he motioned for Domerin to take his pick of chairs in the office. It was plush, fancier than he thought the headmaster of a private school should have, even if this place did tend to tailor to high-class clients. One wall was lined with old leather bound books, each of which could garner a small fortune on just about any market. Unless, of course, they were fake. Lots of people bought stacks of fancy leather-bound book jackets they could use to make their houses look old-timey, but Domerin thought fake books at a fancy school would be crossing a line.

There were no simple chairs on the far side of the wide oak desk. Instead there were overstuffed couches and leather upholstered armchairs on either side of a coffee table spread with pamphlets proclaiming the benefits of sending your child to this school. Which seemed odd since he had never once been invited into this office until after he enrolled his child in the program. He settled for one of the armchairs, if only because it would keep the creepy headmaster from sitting next to him.

Pleased, the headmaster lowered himself onto one of the couches and folded his hands in his lap. When he didn’t speak further, it became clear he was waiting for some kind of response. Domerin had always been dreadful about these meetings when Robin was younger, but now that she was approaching eighteen they filled him with a sense of terror he couldn’t quite contain. It wasn’t that he was going to have to release her into the larger world. He had been coming to terms with that from the moment he met her. It was that he never quite knew what these directors were going to say. Was she under-performing? Had he raised her so improperly that she was totally unprepared for the world waiting outside his mercenary company? Were they kicking her out after less than a week?

“Uh… Is there some kind of problem?” He managed not to wring his hands together when he asked it. He wished he had a stress ball with him, but he didn’t like to carry them to official meetings like this. They made him look unprofessional and inattentive.

“Problem?” The headmaster chuckled, a humorless sound, and waved a hand in dismissal. “Not at all Mister Lorcasf. No, we wanted to discuss Robin’s test scores. As you know, she took several placement tests when she joined us last week, to make certain she was placed in the proper level courses.”

“I’m aware,” Domerin replied, cautious now. He sensed a vulture swooping toward fresh meat. He had been warned that if Robin failed to perform well during the tests she would be bumped down a grade level, devastating for a high school sophomore who dreamed of attending university for biology and engineering. He had done his best to prepare her for the galaxy’s cutthroat university system, but he could only afford a certain level of tutors, and she steadfastly refused to spend more than a couple months at proper schools like this one. And then only because he insisted it was the best way for her to get into the universities she wanted.

“The results are in and I’m pleased to say that she did well across the board. In fact her science and math scores are so high we think she’ll be bored if we keep her at her current level.”

Domerin swallowed hard. He was still stuck on did well across the board. At least he hadn’t utterly failed to educate his daughter. “I’m sorry, I’m not exactly sure what that means?”

“Robin is a very intelligent young woman. We want to bump her up two grade levels. If she was willing to stay in our program the full twelve months, she could graduate at the end of that year.”

“Graduate two years early?” Domerin asked, his tone somewhat numb, his head still reeling. He thought all her tutors eventually quit because they couldn’t handle her rambunctious nature. Could it be they really had taught her as much as they could? “She has blown through every long-distance public school program I’ve been able to find.” But he thought it was just because he couldn’t get access to the best programs given their nomadic lifestyle.

“If you’re worried about the cost, Mister Lorcasf, let me assure you that Robin qualifies for several of our most prestigious scholarships. All you’d have to do is sign off on the approval forms and we can have the process in motion by the end of the day.”

These people wanted to educate his daughter for free now? Sounded like a scam. What could they possibly stand to gain? His uncertainty must have shown on his face because the headmaster swept on, barely pausing to breathe.

“We have a high placement rate in universities throughout the galaxy. If she were to graduate with us, we would make certain she got fair consideration at her top five schools. We pride ourselves on the accomplishments of our alumni. Several have gone on to prominent positions in competitive fields. It’s one of the main reasons so many high-profile clients enroll their children in our school.”

Ah, so there it was. Finish the last twelve months of his daughter’s schooling and get to claim credit for the whole thing. It didn’t sit well with him, but it wasn’t really his choice. If Robin wanted to go to the best school, this seemed like the path of least resistance.

Domerin drew a deep breath and shifted uncomfortably. “Honestly, when I got your call, I thought you were going to tell me that Robin was in trouble for punching someone or something.” It was the conversation he’d been prepared for.

“Oh…” The fake smile disappeared from the headmaster’s face for a moment, momentarily replaced by surprise. “Well, there was one incident…”

Domerin arched a single midnight eyebrow. “Go on.”

“I don’t think it’s anything you really need to be concerned about, Mister Lorcasf. We don’t want you to get the wrong idea about our school.” A hesitant laugh. “It seems that one of the boys touched your daughter in a way she considered inappropriate, and she made her feelings known.”

That’s my girl. “I see. I have talked to her about using her words in those kinds of situations, but if she felt he wasn’t listening… I assume the young gentleman has been punished for this inappropriate behavior?”

“What? Oh, yes! Of course, Mister Lorcasf. We have a no tolerance policy. Though we did also have to reprimand Robin for giving one of her peers a black eye. I do hope you understand.”

“Absolutely,” Domerin replied, more at ease when it came to dealing with these kinds of situations. A girl didn’t grow up among a mercenary company without learning a fair amount of self-defense. “I’ll talk to her about it. And about skipping a few grades, if that’s what you really think is best.”

The headmaster looked confused for a moment, as if he didn’t understand why his sales pitch hadn’t had a greater effect. But he recovered quickly and nodded. “I’ll keep a timeslot free for you tomorrow morning, if that would work for signing the papers?”

“Sounds good,” Domerin replied, sliding to his feet before the man had a chance to speak further.

*   *   *

“Hey, Commander, how did it go?”

Domerin resisted the urge to wince at the wide grin Rilan flashed when he asked the question. He sighed instead; why did his second in command have to be so damn cheerful about everything all the time? “I’m going to have to stay another night.”

Rilan winced. “That bad, huh?”

“You tell me. It turns out that Robin is really smart. Way smarter than either of us. They want to bump her ahead two grade levels.”

Rilan blinked, clearly taken aback, though Domerin wasn’t sure if it was because of the news or the way he had rated it. “Holy shit, wouldn’t she graduate in a year at that rate?”

“Uh uh. And this school wants to take all the credit for her intelligence. Though if it’ll get her into the university she wants, I might just let them. I don’t know, Ri, how do you deal with a child who could probably outsmart you in five minutes with both hands tied behind her back?”

Laughter followed the query. “I don’t know, Boss, you’ve done a pretty good job of it so far. Besides, Robin adores you. It’s the rest of us that are in trouble.” A moment of silence, then Rilan added, “You going to give her the choice?”

Domerin shrugged. “It’s her education, not mine. This place doesn’t even seem to care that she gave some kid a black eye for laying his hands on her.”

Rilan’s hearty peals of laughter were so loud, Domerin had to lower the volume of his comms. “That’s our girl!” he said with a grin, wiping a single tear of mirth from his eyes. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow morning.”

“See you then.”

*   *   *

When Domerin knocked on the door to his daughter’s dorm, he half-expected her to open it a crack, see him waiting in the hallway and tell him to beat it. It surprised him when she threw the door open and threw her arms around his neck in a crushing embrace. It probably always would; no one else was ever so happy to see him waiting on the other side of a doorway.

“Daddy!” She exclaimed, burying her head in his chest while she squeezed the life out of him. “I didn’t expect to see you until next month!”

“Something came up,” he replied, embracing her in return. “Can we talk?”

Robin danced a step backward and arched one midnight eyebrow. She looked so much like him when she did that, he could hardly believe he wasn’t dreaming. How did he ever end up blessed with such a charming kid? She sure as hell didn’t get any of it from him.

“Is this about Kenrick?” she demanded. Her face twisted with disgust and she stuck out her tongue. “He deserved that shiner for sticking his hand on my ass without even introducing himself first.” She followed that by a harrumph.

Domerin tried his level best not to smirk, but he couldn’t entirely keep the mirth off his face. Only Robin could bring out such pride in him, though he shook his head to try and hide it. “It’s butt, Robin, you’ll get in trouble for talking like that here. And no, it’s not about Kenrick.” So that was the kid’s name. Poor, stupid sod. “Though I do believe we’ve talked about this.”

“About how it’s okay to punch someone who touches you inappropriately as long as you tell them off first? I swear, Daddy, I gave him at least ten seconds to run before I let my fist fly.”

Now he did grin. That’s my girl, all right. “According to the headmaster, he’s been reprimanded. And they aren’t going to punish you any more than they already have, or so I here.”

Robin arched the same eyebrow again, clearly skeptical. “Really? Then what are you here to talk about?”

“Let’s take a walk.” Domerin didn’t know how Robin’s roommate felt about his visit, but he didn’t want to make things awkward. Especially since he was glad his daughter was finally getting a chance to hang out with kids her own age. Kids were hard enough to find on mercenary vessels, let alone making play dates outside the company. He knew Robin had a handful of friends she kept in touch with long-distance from previous stints at schools and camps over the years. He wondered if he could get away with pitching this as a year-long sleepover.

Robin stuck her head in the room briefly to tell her roommate she’d be back later and then hurried to fall into step with her father as he strode down the hallway. The weather outside was bright and sunny. The headmaster had assured Domerin this place was a lot like Robin’s homeplanet, with regular seasons and a good blend between sunlight and rainfall. She seemed to enjoy it; she smiled at the gardens as they made their way down the block and into one of the many public green spaces the school maintained for students.

“You like it okay so far?” he asked, probing gently.

“It’s okay,” Robin replied with a shrug. “Nice planet. A bit too city around here for my taste, but the classes are good.”

“Your test results came back. They want to bump you up two grade levels.” There was no point in beating around the bush, and Robin knew how blunt a man he was.

She stopped, stared at him, blinked several times as if to make sure he wasn’t joking. “But wouldn’t that mean I graduate after only a year?”

“If you’re willing to stay the full twelve months, yeah. You’d get your diploma and a chance to interview at your top five schools. Or so I’m told.”

Her face lit up like Christmas. Domerin didn’t think he’d ever seen her so excited, at least not since he first offered to take her back with him to his spaceship. But it faded quickly. “Can we afford it?” She was trying not to wince, but he could see the effort in the tension on her face.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said with a hint of a smile. “They’re offering you a scholarship. I’m pretty sure you’d get it.”

“But it’s a whole year away,” she protested, shaking her head.

“And that’s only six months more than you already planned to stay. To be two years ahead, Robin. I can’t think of any other way to get into whatever school you want.”

“But what if something happens?” she insisted, her lower lip not quite forming a pout.

“You would still be one of the first to know. And what difference do you think you can make? I know I’ve let you do some of the basic training, but you’re still too young for actual combat and you’re not a doctor.”

“Not yet,” she muttered.

“It’s your call,” he said, lifting both hands, palms outward. “I’m not going to push. But this isn’t the kind of opportunity that’s going to come again.” They had talked a lot about lost opportunities. Robin knew enough about his past to be cautious about anything that might cause her regret. “Besides, you can call me as often as you want,” he insisted.

“Every day,” she said without hesitation. “And you’ll promise to visit once a month.”

“As often as I can,” he corrected gently. “You know I can’t always promise I’ll make it back from the rim that fast.”

She crossed her arms over her chest, apparently unconvinced. But after a moment she said, “Any school I want, huh?”

“That’s what the headmaster said. They apparently pride themselves on their placement program here. And all they want in return is to boast they helped make you famous when you get there.”

Robin considered the proposal for another long moment before she formed a fist and pumped in the air. “All right, I’ll do it! One year. Fast track to the best science university in the galaxy. One step closer to making proper replacements for your bionics.”

Domerin sighed. While it was nice to see his daughter excited, he thought she would have grown out of this phase by now. “I really wish you wouldn’t base such a huge portion of your life around me.”

But Robin was undeterred. She pumped her fist again and grinned. “I’m gunna do it, Daddy. Just you try and stop me!”

Domerin only smiled and shook his head. He had long since learned how futile it was to try and turn his daughter away from a task she set her mind to.

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