Off Campus: Part 1

Izzy looked up at me, raising her eyebrow a little. Knowing how powerful her hearing was (powerful enough that it was actually sonar), I knew that if my heartbeat had risen, she’d heard it.

She might also be able to see which glands were firing off. I didn’t know that, but having experienced her sonar secondhand through telepathy, I could believe almost anything. She could see a lot, and in a lot of detail.

“If you want me to go into detail,” I said, “we’ll have to go someplace more private.”

“This is private,” she said. “No one’s nearby, and I can hear if the elevator begins to slow down.”

Well, if she said so, I was prepared to believe it. I explained everything.

She listened intently, nodded at the right moments, and finally said, “I’m in.”

“But,” and here she drew out the word, “there are conditions. We’re not going to go in and take over the country.”

“Okay. I don’t want to do that in the first place.”

“Good. Second, I don’t want us to stop if it doesn’t work. We come up with something better. This shouldn’t be something we drop if we get bored.”

I nodded.

“The last thing is this. If innocents get in trouble because of us, we need to intervene.”

I blinked. Then I opened my mouth, stopped, thought better of it, and spoke again, finally getting out, “That’s going to be hard. They’re killing innocents already when we’re not involved. I mean, if nothing else, it’s going to be really hard to tell which ones are our fault, and which ones aren’t. And that doesn’t even get into the question of how we’d stop them without going over there and obviously interfering in a sovereign country’s affairs–which would definitely get us in a lot of trouble.”

Izzy nodded. “Exactly. It’s going to be hard, and I haven’t worked out everything either, but if we’re going to do this we need to be dedicated, and we need to remember who we’re doing this for–the people of Turkmenistan. The moment killing the people of Turkmenistan begins to look like a good idea, we need to stop. For this, I think the best thing we can do is to avoid violence.”

“I agree with you about avoiding violence. I’m hoping it’s as simple as making all the secrets known, and then the people who live there will solve their own problems. I’m a little worried that it won’t be. It’s got to be pretty obvious to the people who live there that their rulers aren’t good people already, and they still haven’t done anything about it. Probably,” I guessed, “because they’re pretty sure they’ll be executed.”

Izzy nodded, but more excitedly that time. “Exactly. We’re going to need to talk about that before we release any information to anybody.”

“Alright,” I said. “I guess I should start working on my end of things.”

“And I think we should get everyone involved together, and talk about this soon. I’ll schedule the meeting if you don’t.”

* * *

The days settled into a rhythm. In the mornings we’d exercise, fight, and run obstacle courses. In the afternoons, we’d train to rescue people from fires, floods, and natural disasters.

Then people would head to their elective courses–which meant I’d head to the lab.

I couldn’t go with the best possible solution which would have been improving the bots’ ability to handle themselves between directions from me, and creating a communications system that I fully controlled.

I had to do a hack job where I left the bots’ logic largely alone, and then create a new bot with the purpose of plugging into whichever communications system would get the best connection to me–telephone cables, cell phone towers, or direct satellite connection.

I spent every day after supper in the lab working on it, sometimes with the television or radio on in the background, allowing me to listen to on-going coverage of the news, and a lot about Turkmenistan.

Governments all over the world were making statements of protest against the regime’s actions against its citizens.

None of them were doing anything at all.

At any rate, none of them were doing anything that made the news.

Around 9:50pm on Thursday evening, Haley came into the lab. I heard her voice before I saw her. She talked to one of the other technology students (I couldn’t remember his name), and had a slightly longer conversation with Courtney.

I hadn’t realized Courtney was in the labs.

Then she walked through my doorway. I looked up from the bot. It had successfully penetrated a cable, and was communicating on the network.

Haley wore black jeans and light blue shirt. Her hair hung to her shoulders, and she smiled as she saw me. She looked good, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen much of her this past week.

She pulled up a chair, and sat next to me at the table. “So, how’s it going?”

“Okay, I think. Everything basically works.” I looked over to see her response.

“Good,” she said. “I’m feeling ignored.”

She’d almost certainly used those words to help me recall a conversation we’d had one time when I’d been a little too involved in creating the next version of the Rocket suit. The most memorable words of that conversation had been, “Ignored girlfriends become ex-girlfriends.”

She didn’t seem to be angry, so a change in relationship status didn’t appear to be imminent, but she’d used those words for a reason.

“Oh,” I said.

“A bunch of us are going out on Friday. I’d like you to come too.”

20 thoughts on “Off Campus: Part 1”

  1. “Or I swear to god I will knock you out with my dewclaw, then borrow Keon’s antigravity tech to keep you floating after us.”

  2. What Roger said.
    It feels odd to see a teenager have a mature response to something like this, but I suspect that the super hero life style will knock some maturity into people’s heads real quick like.
    Mind you, it took me something like six years, and three boyfriends to figure out that sometimes you just have to say something, no matter how good your partner’s mind reader impression can be from time to time.

    1. I wondered if Haley’s response might have been more mature than realistic, but justified it by remembering that she’d 1) dated Nick long enough to know what he’s like and 2) she’s got an extra layer of information when talking with people.

      Also, I assumed that the previous discussion referenced here had been carried on at a higher volume.

  3. Just might be the world’s greatest girlfriend. That kind of direct communication from a woman is an immensely rare and precious treasure. He should hold on to that one with all his might.

  4. I figure that, since we’re seeing Nick’s dialog, that Haley is picking up on what his body is doing. He’s not upset, he’s not aware that he’s done anything wrong. He’s not embarrassed or scared. He’s not angry or annoyed when she drops the loaded sentence on him.

    He’s just being Nick, so Haley had to come in and rescue him from his lab bench.

  5. Need to poke you with a stick on this one Jim,

    “She didn’t seem to be angry, so a change in relationship status didn’t seem to be imminent”

    Nothing terribly wrong with it, but using ‘seem’ twice, that close together, makes my fingers twitch.

    1. August: Really? I’ve got to admit that I didn’t initially plan to get them together. I’ve also never planned to break them up. I let character relationships grow organically as the story goes on. If I feel like the characters are growing apart, they’ll break up. If it makes sense after that, they might not ever look back. Similarly they might get back together.

      I don’t rule out anything except for stuff that’s out of character.

  6. i love your series Jim

    I got a question to ask about a fellow writer, I can’t remember his name but he did The Last Skull and i know you collaborated before so i’m wondering what happened to him?

  7. Just started reading all of this on Wednesday. I am hooked! Between my phone, computer, and kindle, I have read every word written here. As soon as I get the money I am definitely going to buy these books. Also loved Haley’s comment here “ignored girlfriends become ex-girlfriends.” very mature response to a problem.

  8. I’m right around where I caught up last time I was reading. Not sure how I feel about a couple elements of where this is going.

    It seems like Nick’s only information source for this arc is TV News, which has a far from complete picture. On the bright side, his plans for now largely consist of gathering information himself, which is about the only thing he can do that I wouldn’t object to.

    I really hope Nick gets disappointed by this. Or has his plans radically altered (As in, “what if the evil regime is actually doing the right thing” levels of altered plans). That would turn into character growth for Nick, though it would make the story a bit more cynical.

    The alternative, though, feels like it would lead to a shallow, overly idealistic arc. I mean “raising awareness” on Izzy’s part? The regime is killing thousands, and it’s making global news. Can awareness be raised any further? What’s her plan? Hope they give up after the rest of the world whines about them not being nice?

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