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Sometimes Blair Sandburg wondered why certain people decided to attend University.

He had gone to Rainier when he was sixteen, and inhaled learning. Just as well, really - although he had been accepted by the other students, even the ones who were barely eighteen considered him too young to be included in their evening socializing, and so he spent his evenings studying. Years passed; Blair got his masters and began working towards a PhD, became a TA... discovered a sentinel, began working with him...

He couldn't have been happier.

Okay, as a TA he discovered that something he had only suspected when he was merely a student was correct; not all students were committed to learning. Some attended university because their parents insisted; some were simply putting off the 'evil day' when they had to start actually working. That was a frustration - but ultimately, if someone chose not to pay attention to lectures, preferred socializing to studying, and didn't seem to care if his - her - marks were poor, it was not the fault of the lecturer.

Those were problem students, but their behaviour affected only their own work. However, there was another kind of problem student that was of far more concern; the ones who not only did not particularly want to learn, but who seemed determined that nobody else would either. They spent their time creating - or trying to create - havoc in their classes.

If there was only one such student in a class, he received no back-up from the others, and so fell into category one. If there were several, however...

Fortunately, it didn't happen often. But one TA - a friend of Blair's - had recently chosen to leave Rainier and abandon his hopes of an academic career because of the actions of a group of four such students who had - in effect - ganged up on him.

Basically it had been a complete clash of personalities; Blair recognized that. The four were football jocks who - more than most of their fellows - resented having to take any academic subjects, and regarded anyone who made a career out of anything academic as wimps who needed to be shown how unimportant learning was.

Blair inherited that class. His first taste of it was interesting - he liked to take an informal approach that - he believed - made learning fun, but knowing about those four jocks made him decide to take a different approach. And so he had started by glaring around the room - of course, the students all had to be aware that he knew there were some troublemakers in the class - and quickly identified the four. He paused when his eyes fell on them, and called on his experience facing down a potentially hostile group of hunters in Irian Jaya. The members of his expedition there had made friendly contact with one tribe, but there were other tribes less friendly... In addition, although only self-trained, he was a shaman, and the shaman was normally the most important person in the tribe, even when he allowed the chieftain to seem to hold that position.

He saw the unease on all four faces and allowed a calculating smile to appear on his face - a smile that was a thousand miles away from reaching his eyes - then checked the role book, registering their names in particular, and started the lecture.

He was aware the moment one of them - who had to be their ringleader - began to attract the attention of his three 'partners in crime' and stopped in mid-sentence. "Am I boring you, Mr Symons?" he asked, apparently mildly but leaning strongly on the 'guide tone' that had even Jim following his suggestions. "If I am, you are free to leave."

Something in Blair's voice made Symons stand and turn towards the door. He gasped. "What the hell are you doing to me?"

"What makes you think I'm doing anything?" Blair asked. "I haven't laid a finger on you; I merely told you that you are free to leave - " His voice changed from reasonable to totally dominant. "But if you do, you will not be permitted to return."

Symons gasped again and sank back into his seat.

Blair nodded. "Very well." He glanced around the class, letting his gaze linger longest on Symons and his three fellow-jocks. "I recommend that you all remember this; if you have a problem, come to me and I will help you - but I will not tolerate disturbance in the class... and when it comes to exams, you will get exactly the grade you have earned." And he picked up the lecture where he had left off, knowing he had created confusion in the minds of Symons and his three friends.

After all, how could a mere academic enforce his will on a powerful football jock?


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