While the other First Year students surged into the main lecture hall, Anna and Roxie slipped out of the quadrangle. Roxie waved Anna ahead of her and then gave her directions. They ran down the Yellow Brick Road, which was the main walkway through the campus, until they turned left down a foot path, stopped under an archway, entered an inconspicuous service hatch and then climbed up a vertical fixed ladder until they emerged on the roof of the classrooms. They ran across the rooftops like cat burglars, into another hatch, down several flights of stairs, through a maintenance tunnel, and then took a freight elevator down into the depths of the lower fuselage. Huge pipes and bundles of conduit ran like arteries in every direction through dimly lit metal passageways. Anna and Roxie were in the interstitial maintenance corridors of the fuselage that supported the campus both functionally and literally. But instead of feeling like an explorer reduced to the size of a blood cell in the veins of a giant, Anna felt right at home. The interior infrastructures of all spacecraft are similar, and these familiar surroundings put Anna at ease. 

Whenever the pair came to a touch or audio lock, Roxie paused, closed her eyes, and then recited a combination or pass phrase that Anna used to open the barrier. Roxie pointed the way until she and Anna came to a particular hatch. Anna unlatched the portal and swung down into a large, darkened room. The room noticed her presence and the lights turned on. Anna turned around to find Roxie at her flank, apparently having swung down as quietly as a second-story man. Arrayed behind her in the background were examination rooms, laboratories, waiting areas, and a pharmacy. This was the Infirmary. “I told you I’d get us here,” Roxie said, and then shot up her arms in celebration like a cheerleader. 

This moment was monumental. The Infirmary’s pharmacy, and the cassettes of high-strength psilene that it guarded, were in reach. As soon as they inserted the cassettes into their medi-paks they would be able to see worlds unimagined. For that reason, it was tragic when a booming voice behind them said, “Hands up. Don’t move. We’ve been waiting for you.”


Anna thought that the security guards that had caught her and Roxie were going to escort them to the dean’s office before picking them up by their collars and tossing them out of school. But first, the dean would browbeat and humiliate her for attempting such a foolhardy, stupid, and illegal venture as trying to steal drugs. When she was finally thrown out and left standing by the side of Petrich Road on the island below, she would have to wait⎯no doubt in the pouring rain⎯for her Aunt Marie, her father’s sister, to pick her up and take her back to Marie’s home in Seattle. On the trip, Aunt Marie would alternate between excoriating her niece for humiliating the family, and reproaching herself for failing to guide her wayward niece. That was the most optimistic scenario. Less promising scenarios involved police officers and a criminal record. 

Given the likely scenarios, Anna was surprised when the security guards delivered her and Roxie to a faculty office with an unfamiliar name on the door: “Prof. M. Obermeyer, PhD, MD, ψINT.”

Anna and Roxie sat in an empty waiting room with two muscular guards while they polished up the arrest reports they were writing on their digital pads. They occasionally glanced at Anna, but seemingly ignored Roxie. Anna guessed that they were used to a rebel like Roxie getting into trouble and didn’t pay her any mind. Anna, on the other hand, was supposed to be the ‘good girl.’ So much for her reputation, Anna thought.

Anna felt bad for Roxie. She wouldn’t be in this mess if not for Anna. That thought made Anna feel bad for herself, which made her feel bad for Roxie, and then the cycle repeated ad infinitum. 

After a few minutes, the chief security guard, the portly one with a mustache like a walrus, came out of Obermeyer’s office speaking in a low voice as if he and the faculty member were sharing a secret. Within the office on the far side, was a dark-haired young man sitting quietly at a small, round table. It was her dorm proctor, Juan Carlos Daimler, but Anna couldn’t tell from his expression whether he was fed up or just disappointed.

The chief security guard’s mustache wiggled like a hula dancer’s grass skirt as he said to Anna, “How you could think that you could get away with a theft in a school full of some of the greatest clairvoyants and fortune-tellers in the Worlds is beyond me. I’m turning you over to Prof. Obermeyer. She’ll tell you what’ll happen next. And don’t worry yourself thinking about running away. I’ve already consulted a fortune-teller and he assures me you’re staying right here. So don’t tempt fate.”

As the guards left, Prof. Obermeyer commanded, “Come this way, Ms. Ivlis,” and then waited for the schoolgirl to comply. 

“What about Roxie⎯” Anna began. But the professor cut her off and said, “Just you Ms. Ivlis. I’ll deal with…Ms. Montero…later.”

Anna looked back helplessly at Roxie, but the rebel girl sat nonchalantly with her legs tucked beneath her. The only hint of her mood was that the animated tattoo on her neck kept scrolling a series of flaming death’s-heads. 

Prof. Obermeyer let Anna into her office and then firmly shut the door to the waiting room.


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