As stated in the Labor Day post, this is one of the busiest two week periods we have in the business of academia. We’ve spent the summer prepping for students and faculty to return, but when they actually do return, things get amazingly crazy, amazingly fast. That’s where we are now, for those playing along at home. So, if my prep time was pushed to mid-day instead of morning… well, for the next two weeks that may happen. Sorry. (insert smily faced emoticon here.)
Of course, actually posting this has been a trial given some hosting company issues….
As for this particular episode of Lovelace 1/2….
Well, it was a hard one to write, but it’s also the first episode I conceptualized from beginning to end as an episode, before I even wrote #1.
Here it is.
*** *** *** ***
Andi and Mister Stone ran up, not out. Andi was the one in the lead, and Mister Stone followed. They ran towards the administrative offices, and took the grey tile stairs to the second floor of the old academy building. Andi was more or less in the lead, Mister Stone following. He didn’t ask why they were taking to the second floor — he just accepted. Andi had no Earthly idea why.
The androids had killed Dean Forrester and Mister Charlton.
And it was Andi’s fault. She had essentially led the androids right to them, and then exposed them as if that would magically resolve the problem. The moment that Mister Stone and Mister Charlton had believed her, she’d known that everything would be fine. And then the Dean was willing to at least entertain the possibility, and that meant they’d won, because….
Because that’s what happened in schools. Boarding school teachers in Britain were called masters, and that was what it felt like. They were the masters of the situation — masters of the world. The final authority was the head master. Below that were deans and instructors and lecturers and the like, but they were the ones who made the decisions and you just had to do them. That’s how the world worked. Ask anyone—
Ask any student, which is to say.
Andi was running now — running down the corridor to the T intersection, blowing past Dora James and Ted Voight, who half-spun in their wake. She ignored their protests — she had to get down the hall, heading to the aft end of the school — get down the stairs on that side. She’d run up here because in the back of her head she knew they were facing machines. She’d processed that. She’d remembered her fifteen years of (all too few) interactions with her ‘parents,’ remembered their rote responses, their repeated statements. “Don’t be silly, dear.” They were amazingly sophisticated — there was no doubt about that — but they were limited. They hadn’t been able to ‘think on their feet’ in the debate over Andi’s fate — they just kept asserting their parental authority, as if Andi hadn’t maced one of them with no effect. When it had become clear the police would be involved, they’d killed—
Dean Forrester’s eyes growing wide as the female android’s hand struck her ribs. The sickly crack as several gave way. Mister Charlton’s arm being twisted, his bones breaking, crying out as the other fist doubled over—
No! She didn’t have time right now — she had to move. Be unexpected, so the androids couldn’t anticipate her. If they’d run out the front door that would fall into the expected moves the androids could follow — and then they wouldn’t be able to get to cover fast enough. Having seen the androids’ physical capabilities, she had to believe they could outrun the pair—
There was a scream somewhere behind them, followed by shouting. No, not just screams and shouting. Dora and Ted.
“Come on!” Andi shouted, diverting down a side wing into one of the Junior team areas. There were stairs on this side, though they were internal. The androids were following them — how? They had to get clear — how were they following? They couldn’t have anticipated this direction. They—
Dora and Ted.
Andi skidded to a stop, causing Mister Stone to half blow past her. “Hey — what?”
“Dora and Ted are back there! We have to—”
“Andi, they’re after you. We have to get you out of here, now!”
Andi’s heart was pounding. “Yeah — yeah, right.” She let herself be pulled back into a run, heading for the stairs.
“What’s our plan,” he asked.
“We need to serpentine — run like a maze. Keep ahead of them but do things they won’t expect!”
“Right!” Mister Stone let go as he went down the stairs, two at a time. Andi did the same — getting down as fast as possible.
“How close is your car?” Andi shouted
“Bloody — right!” Park House was across campus — one of the dorms. Which meant Mister Stone was also a dorm parent or had faculty housing. Either way, it meant it was a long way off. “Come on then! Back quarter of the building!” Andi tore for that direction. That would give them a chance to go through the building’s loading doors and put them on the right side of campus.
How did the androids know to go upstairs?
Andi ran as hard and fast as she could, adrenalin and fear running through her. Despite those things, she kept thinking. It was like her brain could run in parallel with itself — part of her doing the mechanics of survival while another part could break the issue down. They’d gotten out the door and slammed it shut while Mister Charlton delayed the androids. “And gotten himself killed doing it!” a part of her wanted to scream, but she had to keep that part back for now. There shouldn’t have been any way they could have anticipated the stairs run. At the very least, they should have gone out the front and looked, but apparently they hadn’t. They’d gone right after them.
All right. She was certain they didn’t have the processing capability to anticipate nonlinear movement. She might be wrong, but it felt right, and she was learning to trust that. So if that were the case, how was it they could follow? What was she missing?
—Dean Forrester’s body flying backwards into the wall, hit with force far beyond what it looked like the ‘thin woman’ could produce—
Andi pushed the thought out of her head. It wasn’t useful. It—
Andi blinked, stumbling. “Oh God!”
Andi frantically pointed to her ear, even as she skidded and turned, running blindly for a different hallway. Mister Stone was a little out of breath as he tried to change directions and follow, not quite as nimble as the student athlete. “What the — where are you going now?!”
Andi heard footsteps on the tile of the back stairs they’d taken. She ran down into her own team area — far from exits, but again hoping to confuse them. She pointed frantically at her ear again. She couldn’t say it — that was the whole point! He had to just understand!
His eyes grew wide, and he followed, not saying any more. He got it.
The androids couldn’t anticipate the pair, but they didn’t have to. Just like their strength, their hearing was better than human. They’d heard them on the stairwell. And that meant they’d heard the plan for the pair to go to Park Hall. And they could hear them running now — and they were probably faster.
They were in the team area, now. At the end of it she could see the couch they always sat on. Luke Miller’s guitar case was sitting there again. Suddenly, Andi wanted nothing more than to sit on that couch and play with that guitar, teasing Luke, just another jock flirting with a wannabe musician.
Mister Stone. “Get in my classroom!” he shouted. “We can barricade it and I’ll call the police with my cell phone!” Even as he shouted it, he pointed across the way, to Mister Charlton’s classroom. Its door was open.
Andi nodded frantically, then ran across to that class. She didn’t know how much of a lead they had left—
She stopped, just inside the classroom.
Mister Stone hadn’t followed her. He was going into his own room. He looked across the hall at her, one hand on a fire alarm. “Come on already!” he shouted, knowing she would know not to listen. “Get in here and help me barricade the door!” And he pulled the alarm. There was the sharp buzzers in all the halls, bells in some, high pitched whistles in others — throughout the building a cacophony blocked out all other sound.
Andi’s eyes were locked on Mister Stone’s for what seemed like a long moment, across the hall from each other — even though it couldn’t have been a second. The androids had been to a parent/teacher night. They knew which class was his. They’d know if they weren’t in there. And they’d heard the plan shouted out. That’s why he’d shouted it.
Andi remembered. She remembered the first time Mister Stone had walked into the room. Remembered those stupid jokes he made in every bloody class. She remembered going through her schedule with him. Remembered his eyerolls at puns, remembered the way he listened to the kids — really listened to them. Some teachers were in it for the paycheck, but not Mister Stone. They all knew that. But he wasn’t like some teachers she’d known — the ones who wanted to be the kids’ best friends, to be the cool teachers who helped the students fight against the man. Mister Stone was the man. He knew it.
But he cared. He’d always cared. More than any teacher — more than any adult in Andi’s entire life — Mister Stone had cared about her grades, her attitude, her health, her well being. When all this happened, Mister Stone had instantly been in her corner, and he’d never wavered. Not once.
In the tick of the clock, the scant one second their eyes were locked, Andi remembered every second she and Mister Stone had spent together.
Mister Stone slammed his classroom door, hard — hard enough to maybe be heard even through the fire alarms. Andi closed Mister Charlton’s classroom door more quietly. There were no windows in the doors, but she still moved away from it, as quietly as she could. She furiously rubbed her eyes — she didn’t have time for tears to blind herself. She had to figure things out. Mister Stone’s barricade wouldn’t hold the androids for long and it wouldn’t take long for them to… to….
She didn’t have time for this, damn it! She looked around. There — the windows! One was half open. She ran as quietly as she could, the alarm hopefully covering the sound of her movement, and slid it the rest of the way. It was a short drop to the ground — she slipped out, landing next to the shrubbery, the mixture of soil and wood chips crunching beneath her feet. She hoped to God they couldn’t hear that.
Park House was obviously out, and without Mister Stone—
God no don’t react just don’t!
—there was no reason to go there. She couldn’t go back to her own dorm. Go to the dining hall? No! Nowhere more students or teachers might be! Nowhere where someone else might get kil—
She had to get off campus. Get away from where her presence would be enough to endanger others. Swiping her hand over her eyes again, she began to run — down over the quad. If they were in Mister Stone’s room they’d be on the wrong side to see her. They were out in a rural area, a few miles from Brunswick. If she could get there—
She ran around one the arts center, getting her off of line of sight from the academic building. There was a parking lot adjacent to it, and she remembered there were a bunch of bikes the kids had over there, especially from the day students who rode in.
She got to the bike rack. She’d been there before — hanging out with friends. She remembered once she and Bell had been walking and talking with Jake Fischer and Bill Pérez — they’d ended up walking them to the bike rack, and Jake had grabbed his bike—
That one. The white one. Locked. She remembered his fingers working the lock. Remembered 6…3…8… she hadn’t seen the fourth number. She spun the tumbler… 1… 2… 3… 4—
The lock came loose in her hand. She pulled the cable and threw it to the side, pulling the bike out of the rack. “Sorry, Jake,” she murmured, and slid onto the bike. A few pumps, and she got up to speed. It had been some time since she’d been on a bike, but she trained on stationaries during the winter and on rain days, so her rhythm was still good. She got up to speed, and coasted down the hill. She had to get to Brunswick. Get to where she had options.
Except… what options? What options did she have? Her parents—
Her parents had never been her parents. All her other schools and the people who knew her at them were on the other side of an ocean. She had friends here at Brooks-Carillon, but what possible good did that do her? Whatever happened with the androids, there had to be significant money and power behind their construction. Someone was behind all of this, and the school and her schoolmates would be the thing they watched most closely. So, no Bell, no Jennie, no Luke. No Ms. Feinman. No Mister St—
She tried to suppress it once more, but given nothing but road ahead of her, which she had to pedal down as fast as she could, she couldn’t stop it. Couldn’t stop the cold, sick realization that Mister Stone had pushed her away and called the androids to himself. Had given her a chance to escape. Had sac…
Of course, maybe they wouldn’t need to hurt him! Once they saw that Andi wasn’t with him, maybe they just left him behind or….
Mister Stone knew they were androids. He’d seen proof. He knew too much.
Mister Stone was dead.
Andi couldn’t entirely keep from crying, at least right that moment, but she managed to keep her vision clear. In the distance, she heard what sounded like thunder, though the sky was clear. She couldn’t worry about that now. She pumped harder, rode faster, away from Brooks-Carillon and everything she’d known in the United States of America. The only thing she knew, right now, was that she had to stay away from those androids and the people who made them. The people who’d made her. Mister Stone was dead, and Andi would hurl herself off a cliff before she did a single thing for the people responsible. She rode as fast as she could, knowing she needed Brunswick as a stepping off point, but from there her only job was to not get caught by those people. So she rode, and she didn’t look back.
End of Part One