Author : Harris Tobias

Suron tapped the console impatiently. It was bad enough having to tutor 75 idiots in this jerkwater part of the galaxy for no hope of reward or recognition, but these particular young minds were spread out over half a light year on weather stations, research stations, agricultural stations and Krom knew what else. Not a single city within a month's travel, not even a single habitable planet for Krom's sake.

How did a teacher of his superb training and intellect wind up on this decrepit station so far from the gleaming centers of commerce and art? He who was third in his class at the academy and could have had an appointment at the great university on Helms. It was all politics. “Politics!” Suron spat out the word and fetched the console a resounding smack.

One by one the consoles lights winked off as the far flung students submitted their assignments, communicated with each other and signed off after the day's lessons. Seventy five little lights connected him to seventy five little minds. Some bright, some hopelessly dull; all of them reluctant to work but eager to win his praise. He demanded nothing less than perfection from them. This may be the despised ass end of the known universe but by Krom it will have seventy five well spoken and highly literate young minds. One light stubbornly remained. A young third former named Veech who lived on a small mining station at the very limit of The People's expansion.

Keying the switch with contempt Suron spoke to the boy, “Yes Veech, why do you tarry?” Static and the garbled sounds of voices and commotion came over the speaker. Suron turned to the small screen. A picture of the floor or perhaps a wall. Finally a panting and dishevelled Veech. “Professor! Thank Krom! Help! Help us please. Explosion. People hurt. I don't know what to do.”

“My dear young man,” snapped Suron, ” you will address me in the correct manner. You will ask permission to speak. And then you will speak clearly and in whole sentences as I have instructed. You will state your case in precise declarative sentences without emotion. In fact, I would prefer to read a written report on your problem which might help your flagging grade in composition. I will expect your report before class tomorrow. That is all.” So saying, Suron flicked the switch cutting off communication with the horrified Veech.

Several hours later this report came through on the data transfer machine:

Dear honored professor,

I do not have much time. Several explosions and fire have killed everyone but me. The station is in ruins. Only this channel of communication remains. I have no food and very little air. All life support systems are destroyed and there are no escape pods in this part of the station. I do not think I can last more than a few days before I slowly die of thirst or cold or asphyxiation. I might be better to simply throw open the airlock and end all suffering. I hope you find this composition to your liking.

Your most respectful pupil,


Sighing deeply and tut tutting to himself Suron takes the red pen from his pocket and begins to circle the obvious grammatical and syntactical errors in the report.

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