I read the article on my phone. The dead activist had a name I couldn’t pronounce, attended a university in Turkmenistan, majored in engineering, and had been twenty years old.
That boggled my mind. He’d been only a year older than I was.
According to the regime, he’d been executed for treason.
The article didn’t go into any great detail about what he’d actually been doing except to note that he’d organized students to protest after the regime’s recent actions.
It shouldn’t have surprised me. You saw that kind of thing in the news all the time. For that matter, if you were going to see it anywhere, you’d expect to see it under the sort of regime that would burn down city blocks.
Still, I found myself staring at the phone until its screen went black.
I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with political dirty tricks like strategically releasing the worst footage of the regime available. I felt like the best thing I could do would be to leave the regime no secrets.
Daniel had mentioned that it might be connected to the Nine. That could come out with everything the regime had done, all the places it had buried the bodies, its weapons and its long term plans.
I wasn’t sure how that would stop anything though. Still, it would do something. I hoped it would be a good thing.
One thing was for sure, though, I wasn’t going to be attaching the Rocket or the Heroes League to it. It seemed like the kind of thing that ought to be secret at first–though I couldn’t help but see the irony there.
Courtney got up from her chair, and Dr. Nation called up the next student.
She walked up to me as I stuffed the phone back into my pocket. Her expression struck me as somewhere between thoughtful and excited—not jumping around or anything, but excited nonetheless.
Grinning, she walked over to me with a little more speed than she had to.
“I am so relieved,” she said. “He’s alright with letting me work on modifying my body even though I’m not creating a device, and I’m mostly just figuring out how to give myself more powers.”
“Well,” I said, “you’re doing the same thing as the rest of us. It’s just that all your materials are internal. Besides I heard what you told him. There isn’t an owner’s manual. It’s not like you have any feeling for what will work and what won’t, so it makes sense.”
“I know, but teachers aren’t always that flexible. You know that.”
I nodded, remembering how my chemistry advisor hadn’t wanted to let me double major in chemistry and electrical engineering. He wasn’t wrong. It would be a bad idea for most people.
It worked out in the end, but mostly because I’d qualified to skip so many classes that he couldn’t say no.
As we left the room, walking toward the elevators so we could get up to the residential floors, she asked, “What’s your project?”
“Well… The short term one is distance control of my roachbots, but the long term one is essentially floating weapons and repair platforms. You know how the Rocket suit’s self-repairing these days? I used nanobots, but not the kind that might accidentally turn the whole world into grey goo. That means that I’ve got to keep material around for repairs and a way to get it to me. It also wouldn’t hurt to have backup in case I get into trouble. Thus, my project.”
We talked about each others’ projects all the way up the elevators and only stopped when she got off on her floor.
Alone in the elevator as I went up to the next floor, I realized that it had been a good thing. Even in college, I couldn’t talk about science. I always had to stop before I passed the current limits of our science, or even the limits of what even a brilliant student should know.
With Courtney, and eventually everyone else in the technology program, I could just talk.
I stepped out of the elevator to find Izzy sitting in one of the chairs in the open lounge nearby. She looked up from the book she was reading, and waved at me.
She wore street clothes—jeans and a red shirt. Her glasses seemed to obscure half her face. She’d pulled her hair into a ponytail. It appeared to be wet like she’d just come from a shower.
Interestingly, she slumped in the seat like she might actually be tired.
“Hey,” I said, “what are you doing here?”
“I’m done for the day. I thought I’d wait for Daniel, or maybe just read. This is the only lounge without a television, and wherever there’s a television, they keep on showing Turkmenistan. It’s frustrating. If I were at school, I could do something about it. We’ve got an Amnesty International group and we organize and try to raise awareness. Here, I feel helpless.”
“Oh,” I said, thinking back to the problem of getting my roachbots to Turkmenistan, “Daniel and I were talking about that too. We think we might have an idea for how to help. It’s a little like raising awareness.”