Next to Last Scorecard

– 232 miles
– 2 spiders (large, alive, and in the ARGH NO GO zone)
– 1 cat (alive)
– 1 cat (dead)
– 1 fawn (dead)
– 3 hawks
– 4 tree frogs (one of whom took a flying leap out of the trap and landed on my hammer)
– 3 bicyclists
– 1 highboy
– 2 road crews

How’s that for exposition snippet

“You graduated from Hole in the Sky?”
Yulia tried not to sigh. “I’m from Mars. I had a two-parent family, but my mother died in an accident and my father was…also injured. He was not able to continue being my guardian. I had line relatives, but it would have been way too expensive to ship me off world to them, and I’d have missed my shot at the Academy that year. So I went to Hole in the Clouds for about eight months and I got my adult certificates out of there.”
“Wow. Was it…how was it?”
“I…I won’t say it was good–I did make friends there–but, y’know, mostly what I ended up coming out of there with is a really, really firm appreciation for the rules. I mean, rules beyond ‘do not punch smaller people in the face and take their chocolate, because you’re bigger.’ I mean, that’s a rule that any smaller person can see the value in following. And, y’know, if you bully enough people, the staff are going to step in and see that one of them gets a shock glove and combt training…and then that person is going to learn why he shouldn’t have done that.”
“That’s how they operate? Really?”
“They give you the tools. And they give you a hand. Then it’s up to you. But, y’know, I mean: the like, really old-fashioned rules that don’t have obvious consequences. Like, ‘chew with your mouth closed.’ ‘Do not have sex outside of an institutionally-approved relationship.’” Yulia hastened to add, “What I mean is, that’s a rule because it’s a good way to just be used and psychologically damaged by someone who doesn’t care, or even just likes to destroy people. Not to mention, there’s always the possibility of pregnancy, or getting someone pregnant.”
“Wait, don’t most creches sterilize?”
“Hole in the Sky doesn’t. Unless there is a medical necessity or prior reason.”
“Such as getting someone pregnant outside of wedlock?”
Yulia shrugged. “Chew with your mouth closed. Pay your debts. Have a reputation for reliability. So. Yeah. That’s what it was like.”
“Eight months.”
“Don’t they not graduate you until you have the ability to support yourself, or something?”
“Well, they get into the philosophy of it a bit more, but yeah: they give you the training and the tools. That’s why I am also cross-trained on maintenance and operation of three types of heavy ground equipment.”
J Eden actually grinned. “Cool.”
“Yep! Crawlers, wheels, and hovercraft.”
“Caterpillars or spiders?”
“Both. Same controls. Fun fact! Almost every human vehicle uses one of those three control systems.”
“What, all of them? No way. The military craft, too? You can just learn to operate any of them?”
“Well, the really big ones or the really specialized ones are their own skillset, of course. It’s a way different thing to be doing precision welds on a ship hull than buzzing down trees for power lines.”
“You did that?”
“Yeah! Our team from Hole in the Sky set the power lines from Dryas Station, I was on the aerial lines and then they had me watching the diggers…gosh, I’m seriously talking about this. Sorry. It was a lot of fun and we were really proud of ourselves. I’m gonna shut up now. But yeah, crawlers? Are really cool.”