Episode 5: Dinner Party

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"It's... interesting to me. Defending the station, the physical training, I like the idea of it."

"He likes the idea of it," Gabe scoffed.

Ben straightened up and narrowed his eyes at Gabe.

"Aren't I allowed to learn about what I'm interested in? I don't have to stay on Tenacity, anyway."

"Ben, don't be rude," Dean said.

"I'm no-"

"Ben," Dean placed a hand on Ben's knee and tapped firmly. "We're not picking on you. Tenacity is the best place in the universe to work. I just want you to live up to your potential."

"Maybe TPEF is my potential."

"That's a big maybe, Benjamin," Robert said, "In most other fields, you'll know you're not cut out for it pretty quickly. Elite Force, if you get through boot camp there's still a big chance you'll be rejected somewhere in the rigorous selection process. And when they decide you're not Elite Force material, that's it, no second chances."

Ben thought for a moment while everyone stared at him expectantly. 

"I'll see what Sergent Rath says at the end of the semester. If he thinks I can't make it, then I'll look into something else."

"Fair enough, I suppose, right, Dean?" Robert said, shrugging. "Ah, dinners ready."

Ben could barely bring himself to eat. He was reeling with the new knowledge that his father didn't want him to be in Elite Force, not because it wasn't a path that followed in his footsteps, but because he thought Ben couldn't do it and was wasting his time. He had gone so far as to enlist Robert and Gabe to try and talk him out of it.

"What does your daughter plan on doing, Dean?" Gabe asked. "I've been meaning to introduce myself in the dining hall, but some guy always gets to her before me."

Robert and Gabe chortled.

"She, uh, she actually...has an opportunity to work at the agricultural center. I honestly didn't expect that she'd be able to stay long, so it's pretty good news."

Robert nodded. "I don't mean to be crass Dean, I really don't, but the agriculture center is where people work before they, ultimately, leave the station."

"I don't doubt it. But she's young and doesn't know what she wants to do yet, I'd rather she be able to stay with us as long as possible. At least until she has some kind of goal."

"I understand your feelings as her father. But really, it's better for people who, for lack of a better phrase, don't belong here, to make their way out as quickly as possible. They're a distraction for Tenacians who need to focus on their work. The very foundation of this society is exceptional individuals raising each other to new heights."

Ben waited, expecting the usually over-protective and outspoken Dean to defend Molly, or at least shut Robert down.

Dean only nodded solemnly.

Ben took matters into his own hands.

"I think it's just as valuable to be kind as it is to be smart. My sister is exceptional, maybe not in the way you think is important, but she is."

Robert took a long draw from his wine glass, raising an eyebrow at Dean.

"Ben, calm down," Dean said. "Robert doesn't mean anything personal against Molly. The social structure here is different than what we're used to."

"Right," Robert said. "People think just because English is the primary language here on Tenacity that we have entirely Western ideals. Equity is not so much a concern here. And kindness is by no means as important as intelligence in any context." Robert set his glass down and crossed his arms."However, I like your spirit, Ben. You think for yourself, even though your perspective is naive. You'll go far if you apply that to something tangible."

Ben nodded and fell silent. Robert, Gabe, and Dean went on and on about various topics and Ben only spoke when spoken to, internally begging for this dinner party to be over.

The doorbell interrupted dessert. A puzzled Robert got up to answer the door.

"I'm so sorry, can I speak to my dad for a moment?" Molly's melodic, friendly voice carried from the hallway.

Dean quickly got up from the table and went out into the hallway with Molly. He returned a few short moments later.

"I'm afraid we'll have to excuse Ben, my wife's mother is calling and demands to speak to him. She's the type that won't take no for an answer."

Ben barely stifled a relieved grin.

"Um, thank you for dinner," he said as he got up from the table.

"It was a pleasure having you Benjamin, I hope our discussion didn't put you off. I think you have the potential to do really well here," Robert said.

Ben forced a smile, nodded, and left.

***

"Grandma didn't call, I just thought I'd save you," Molly said.

"You're a genius," Ben said as he pulled his tucked shirt out of his waistband and flopped down next to Molly on the couch.

Molly giggled. "How was it?"

"It was a nightmare. It's insane how pretentious they are, and dad just goes along with it like it's fine. He would never act like that on Earth. Oh, and Robert's son, Gabe? If you see him in the dining hall, do me a favor and be super rude to him."

"Wait, what?"

Ben told Molly all about the dinner, except for the discussion about her.

"Do you think I can do it, Molly? Do you think I have a chance of being in Elite Force? Tell me the truth."

"Absolutely! Listen, Dad is just projecting his own insecurities onto you. He was a wimpy nerd growing up and he just can't imagine that his son could be any different."

"But...I am kind of a wimpy nerd."

Molly laughed and shrugged. "You want to be in TPEF, right? You feel strongly about it?"

"Yes."

"Then you can do it. Because I know that you can do anything you want to do. And I'm not just being nice. I'm not capable of doing anything I want to, neither are mom or dad. But you have that next level determination. Don't let anyone on this station make you feel inferior."



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