Undercity, Ch. 6 (Part 1)

Sigh. So much for a normal post. Once again, this is about half of the chapter. Come back tomorrow morning for the rest, and be ready to boo me if I do this again on Saturday!

A little while later, the Magister comes to tell us that Self-Expression is over with and that we’re free to go. As I’m heading for the door, he hands me a sheet of paper and says, “I’ve prepared a copy of the questions I posed in class today. I expect you to look them over and bring written responses to each of tomorrow.” I frown. I’m just about to express my displeasure when I remember that Bryant’s in the room and that it probably wouldn’t reflect well on either of us if I started fighting with the Magister immediately after our first session. So instead I just stick out my hand to take the paper. All of a sudden, Bryant says, “Magister, not to tell you how to guide your proteges, but Persephone and I have just had a long and draining talk. I’m sure that she has no shortage of things to think about on top of her other assignments. Perhaps the responses could wait another day.”

The Magister stares at Bryant, his expression unreadable. I can’t decide if I think he’s going to fire Bryant on the spot or if he’s in shock because he can’t believe that a lowly member of the faculty at the academy would dare talk back to him. Instead he gives a curt nod and says, “Very well.” He turns to me and clears his throat. “Take some time tonight to reflect on ‘Notes from the Singularity’ and be prepared to share your thoughts on it in two days’ time.” His eyes narrow and he sniffs. “I’ll be expecting an extra impressive set of insights, given that you have extra time to consider the work.” With that he turns and exits, leaving the door open behind him. Bryant and I stand there in silence, listening to the Magister’s footsteps echo down the hallway and up the stairs leading into the Administration Building proper.

“Charming, isn’t he?” Bryant asks.

“All Magisters are charming,” I mutter. “They get it as an implant when they leave the Magisterium, right after the stick.”

Bryant chuckles at that, then excuses himself to go to his office.

Jaclyn’s waiting for me at the entrance to the Administration Building. On days when we have Self-Expression, she usually waits for me, since everything ends at the same time anyway.

“So, what was that about?” she asks as soon as I’m close enough to hear her.

“What was what about?”

She punches me in the arm. “Don’t play dumb. Becquerel told me that the Magister sent you off with some head shrinker because of something you did in class yesterday. What’d you do? How’d it go?” She jabs in the ribs with her finger and grins. “Tell me everything. Omit nothing.”

I stick my tongue out at her. “He gave us an in-class assignment that was rigged so we couldn’t complete it. I did something he didn’t expect to try and complete it, and he flipped out.”

Jaclyn arches one of her eyebrows and waves her hand, gesturing for me to go on. I sigh and continue.

“I tried running a simple little program I’d come up with to identify files foreign to my node. No big deal.”

Jaclyn stops dead in her tracks and looks at me.

“You wrote a program.”

“Yeah.”

“And you ran it in the middle of class, where you had to know the Magister would catch you.”

I shrug. “Evidently.”

Jaclyn smirks. “Well. Look at you, you rebel!”

Despite myself, I smile. Jaclyn’s never called me a rebel. And to be fair, I’m not one. Not really.

I turn and we start along our walk again, Jaclyn peppering me with questions for our entire trip through the city. Did you get in trouble? What was the psycho like? Did he get you in trouble? Did you cry? Are they going to lobotomize you? Why’d you start writing programs anyway? Where’d you learn? Finally, we reach her apartment and we part ways. She gives me a hug and says, “I fully expect every electronic system in the school to be dancing on your strings by the end of the year, you know.”

I roll my eyes. “Come on, Princess. Give me a break. You know I’m just starting out.” I wink and grin at her. “Give me until the start of next year instead.”

 

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