Stand behind yer sheriff Circulation: 197,091,448 Issue: 962 | 17th day of Relaxing, Y24
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Lori and the Flight Academy


by speelyrox

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Lori always knew that something bad was coming when her mom asked her to stay at the table after dinner. The first time she could remember it happening had been when she was only a couple of years old and had come down with a case of NeoMites. She had needed an injection, and although she felt better almost immediately, she had hated getting a shot! Another frustrating after-dinner talk had been when her mom wanted to talk about a weird smell coming from Lori’s closet. Hey, it wasn’t Lori’s fault that she was so good at Cheeseroller that she kept winning and getting to take home her cheeses! But her mom had insisted on having a talk about storing food properly so that it wouldn’t rot. Lori could understand why that had been important, but it certainly wasn’t fun!

     Tonight’s post-meal conversation, though, had to be the worst one yet. A few days earlier, Lori had told her mom that she wanted some more responsibility. She really felt like she was growing up, and she wanted to play a more mature role in the family. But after dinner, her mom announced that she had decided to ruin Lori’s life…she had signed Lori up as a Volunteer Flight Instructor.

     “I don’t want to teach flying lessons!” Lori groaned. “When I told you that I wanted more responsibility, I meant that I wanted to cook dinner sometimes. I did NOT mean that I wanted you to sign me up for a job! I can’t believe you did this to me, Mom!”

     Lori’s mom gently reached out to pat the faerie Uni’s mane. “I know that you’re not happy about this, but please hear me out. With so many new pets being painted faerie, and even more pets buying wearable wings, the Flying Academy in Faerieland is desperate for volunteer instructors. You’ve always been a Uni, so you could fly even before you became a faerie pet. But lots of these newly winged pets have never flown before, and they need someone like you to help them learn to enjoy the skies safely. Plus, you said that you wanted more responsibility. I think that this will be good for you.”

     Lori jerked away from her mom and tossed her main. “I don’t see why they can’t just figure it out themselves,” she grumbled. “Even baby Unis can figure it out. If these pets can’t fly safely, maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to have wings. Plus, if you really wanted me to get a job, couldn’t you have just sent me to the Faerieland Employment Agency? You know I’m an excellent shopper; I would have done a great job finding the items they asked for. Plus, then I could have actually made some Neopoints. Volunteer instructors don’t even get paid!” She stomped her hoof and tossed her main again for good measure. “I’m going to my room. I don’t want to talk to you anymore.”

     “That’s fine,” Lori’s mom replied. “Get some good sleep tonight. You need to be at the Academy at eight tomorrow morning for flight teacher training.”

     “No, no, no, eight o’clock is WAY too early for this!”

     Lori’s mom raised her eyebrows. “Don’t think I don’t know about your early morning trips to visit the Snowager, young lady. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

     ----

     The next morning, Lori still couldn’t believe her bad luck. Instead of fishing in Maraqua or watching the battles at the Tyrannian Battleground, she was stuck learning how to teach newly airborne pets how to fly. Worst of all, the lead instructor for their training was a faerie Blumaroo! Blumaroos weren’t even born with wings! Before the training even began, Lori knew that she had nothing to learn from him. But she also knew that she would get in big trouble if her mom found out that she wasn’t paying attention. Maybe I can pretend that I care but just be really bad at instructing, she thought to herself. If they decide that I’m not a good teacher and send me away, there’s nothing that Mom will be able to do about it! Pleased with her plan, she began to listen to the instructor, who had just begun the training session.

     “Thank you all for being here today,” he began. “I’m especially pleased to see some familiar faces that learned to fly through the Academy. Thank you for returning to pass on your knowledge.” He smiled at a Wocky in the front row with a pair of Golden Snowflake Wings, and Lori rolled her eyes. I bet she’s a teacher’s pet to make up for the fact that she isn’t even a real flying creature, she thought. “I also see several others here who I assume have been flying for most of their lives,” the Blumaroo continued, “and I’m thrilled that you are joining us. We find that having volunteer instructors with a mix of different backgrounds helps our students understand different aspects of flying. Those who are born with wings often have an instinctive approach to flight that helps calm our more nervous students. At the same time, those who themselves took up flying a little later are often more equipped to explain certain aspects of flying, as they have had to learn the same mechanics that they are now teaching.”

      Hmm, thought Lori. That makes sense, I guess, but I don’t like the idea that this Wocky might be a better teacher than me. Maybe instead of being such a bad teacher that they kick me out, I’ll be so good at teaching that they have to say that some Unis actually are better at teaching mechanics than the pets who started later. Then, Mom will be so proud of me for being the best teacher they’ve seen that she’ll let me stop volunteering!

     ----

     By the end of the week, though, Lori had to admit that the Blumaroo might have known what he was talking about. Although she was probably one of the most adept flyers in the class, she struggled to remember the technical concepts, like which wing strengthening exercises worked best for which species. She had planned to stop thinking about the course as soon as she went home each afternoon, but she instead found herself studying late into the night. She just wanted to prove that a born flyer could teach the mechanics just as well as someone who had gone through the Flight Academy! At least the Academy alumni in her class, like that Wocky, couldn’t actually fly as well as she could.

     As Friday’s class finally came to an end, Lori hurried to gather up her things. She wanted to get home to study as quickly as possible so that she could hopefully focus on something else – anything else! – over the weekend. But before she could get out the door, someone tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around to see her least favourite classmate.

     “Hi,” the Wocky said softly. “You’re Lori, right? My name is Nala.”

     “I know, Nala,” Lori said, rolling her eyes. “We’ve been in this class for a week already, and Mr. Blu calls on you for basically every mechanics question!”

     Nala grimaced. “I know, I wish he would give someone else a chance. He just knows that I know the answers, because I was in his class when I learned to fly, and he wants me to get more confidence. Speaking of which…I’ve really been struggling with the practical flight skills portion of training, I think partially because I just get so nervous. You’re by far the best in the class at the actual flying part! I was wondering, would you be willing to meet up this weekend and help me practice flying.”

     Lori narrowed her eyes. If Nala got any better at the flying part, she might surpass Lori and unquestionably become the best student in the class! But maybe they could make a trade. “I can help you with the flying part,” Lori said, “if you can help me with mechanics. I’ve been studying every night and I just can’t get the hang of some of the wing strengthening exercises.”

     Nala smiled. “That sounds great! Want to meet outside the Hidden Tower tomorrow after lunch? We can fly while it’s nice out, and then you can come over for dinner and I’ll help you with studying.”

     Lori nodded. “Sounds like a deal.”

     ----

     The next day, Lori was shocked at how much fun she had practising flying with Nala. She had assumed that the Wocky would be snobby and annoying, given what a teacher’s pet she had seemed to be in class. But it turned out that Nala was just shy! Even better, she was happy to defer to Lori as the expert at flying. Nala’s eagerness to learn encouraged Lori to be patient as she explained tricks like how to pick the best gust of wind to rise in the air and how to fly close to Terror Mountain without getting snow in your eyes. Before she knew it, two hours had passed! It was time for a little break.

     “Why did you decide to fly, anyway?” Lori asked as they settled onto a cloud. “It seems so hard to learn from scratch, and Wockies have a lot of other skills. Why were you so determined to learn this?”

     Nala nodded thoughtfully, collecting her thoughts before she began to speak. “You said in class a couple of days ago that you like fishing in Maraqua. Given that you’re a Uni, I’m guessing you had to learn how to swim, right? And it was hard, but you still wanted to do it, because you wanted to be able to explore Maraqua? That’s what it’s like for me with flying. Faerieland is such a beautiful place, and I’ve loved staring up at it for as long as I can remember. As I got older, I decided that just seeing it wasn’t enough; I needed to go there and experience it. Plus, it turns out that flying is a lot of fun! I love it so much that as soon as I finished my training, I knew I wanted to become an instructor and help other Neopets have the same experience. What about you, why are you doing this?”

     “Well…” Lori was suddenly ashamed at how selfish she had been all week. “I actually didn’t want to sign up for it. My mom made me do it. But I’ve been flying for as long as I can remember, and I never thought about how it must feel to watch others do it without being able to do it for yourself. Maybe this is a better use of my time than I realized at first.” Lori smiled. “That said, it’ll all be a waste if I can’t pass the mechanics test! Can you help me study now?”

     Nala smiled back at her. “You’ve got it!”

     ----

     “Lori, could you please stay at the table after we finish eating?” Lori gulped. She always knew that something bad was coming when her mom asked her to stay at the table after dinner! And this time, she had no idea what it could possibly be. With Nala’s help, she had received the second-highest score on her flight mechanics exam (after Nala, of course), and she had made the Top 5 list for all-time highest scores on her flying exam! She had become an officially certified flight instructor and was planning to spend her summer volunteering at the Academy (except when it would conflict with Altador Cup training). What could her mom possibly have to say to her now!?

     Her mom gave her a small smile. “I know that you weren’t excited about volunteering at the Flight Academy, and I’m so glad that you gave it a chance. I knew that once you thought about how much you love to fly, you’d see how important it is to help others experience that joy as well. So, I have a little treat for you to celebrate how well you did in training.” Lori squealed with delight as her mom handed her a Uni Ice Cream! “I love you, my Uni, and I love that you’re using your unique skills to help others.”

     “Thanks, Mom!” Lori smiled between licks. “I’m glad I am, too.”

 
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