With the exercise over everyone retreated wisely back to their dorms. Though Gareth Lockhart remained behind for a moment in vain, Miss Starr never approached him nor much less glanced at him. Failing to see her, Gareth Lockhart reluctantly turns around and joins Hunter and Diane who were waiting for him further ahead.
Albert sullenly is accompanied by #017 and Mr. Wilkins, who is still chucking to his furry self about how Albert was beaten black and blue by Professor Stark. Albert bad-tempered glances at the gray-haired woman at his side. There was something about her, that he couldn’t quite put his finger on, but was so familiar. Unable to handle it anymore and annoyed with the beating he had received, Albert suddenly asks, “Miss Starr, have we ever met prior to our meeting at the Academy?”
#017 honestly replies, “We have never met prior to the car encounter.”
Albert frowns and furrows his brows at the unexpected response. “I’m sorry, but I feel that there is something so very familiar about you, Miss Starr. Do you have any siblings or family members that I may have met?” Albert interjected.
Mr. Wilkins snorts to himself as #017 dully replies, “The members of my family are dead.”
Albert’s heart sinks in his chest. “I’m sorry,” Albert sincerely said. #017 accepts the response in silence as Mr. Wilkins glares up at his girl. Her statement wasn’t exactly true, but neither was it exactly a lie either.
Albert turns his attention forward and waves to the cheerful face of Tanya. Tanya waves back as the faces of Mr. Wilkins and #017 darken. Mr. Wilkins softly says, “I believe Miss Tanya is already taken. Isn’t she dating what’s his face, the friend of her roommate, Ruby?”
“Mr. Wilkins, shame on you for such gossip,” #017 dutifully reported.
Albert’s hand freezes and slowly lowers itself back to his side. “I knew that, but I was just being friendly,” Albert murmured.
“Of course, we wouldn’t dream of imaging anything else,” Mr. Wilkins said with a great deal of satisfaction.
Albert tilts his head up and says, “Well, I believe I’ll go wash, before dinner. Excuse me.” Striding forward, Albert rushes forward and brushes past the chattering figure of Tanya. Tanya freezes and calls out to him, but he ignores her.
Tanya frowns and turns pleading eyes towards Mr. Wilkins and Miss Starr. “Professor Wilkins, Albert seems to be cross with me. Did he say anything?”
“No, young lady, he didn’t mention you at all. He must merely be tired, I’m sure,” Mr. Wilkins replied with a great deal of satisfaction.
Tanya pouts and says, “Professor Wilkins, please don’t tease me.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it, my dear,” Mr. Wilkins firmly retorted.
Tanya is at loss for words as #017 brushes past her and enters the dorm lobby, heading for the elevator. Through narrowed eyes Tanya watches the figure vanish into the elevator, before following suit. Her dorm room is empty as her roommate, Ruby is off elsewhere.
Murmuring a curse under her breath, Tanya aka 56 flings her school bag onto her bed. Letting out a hiss of fury, 56 stiffens as a familiar ding is heard from her VEX watch. 56 glances at the newly received message from #32. With caution, she reads the message, “It’s seems something fun is going to go down. Are you in?”
56 texts back, “What exactly? R U playing again?”
“Me? No. But someone is. I thought we could join in the fun,” #32 swift response read.
“And if we do, wat do we win?”
56 grits her teeth in frustration and furiously types, “Like?”
“What you need and what I want.”
“Then wat do u get?”
56’s curses #32’s riddled nature. “Specifics, plz.” 56 waits for a response, but #32 never responds. Clenching her teeth in fury, 56 lets out several loud breaths in an effort to calm herself. Calm, 56 narrows her eyes with eyes full of vengeance. Despite having already done her assignment for the week, 56 reaches for her watch with cold eyes.
The recording icon glows brightly signaling that the VEX watch was recording. “New players afoot, we are to join the gameplay,” 56 said. Turning off the recorder 56 turns back around and exits her dorm room. If she couldn’t get the lunatic to come to her and tell her, then she would go and pry it out of him.
#017 sits at the kitchen counter with a laptop open in front of her. A familiar ding from behind her is heard and automatically #017 asks, “What does it say?”
“New players afoot, we are to play,” Mr. Wilkins replied.
#017 stiffens and says, “Where is she?”
Mr. Wilkins pauses to check. “She’s heading out of the dorms, why?” Mr. Wilkins asked.
“Keep me posted on her location and watch her on the monitors,” #017 murmured as she rose to her feet and swiftly left their dorm room. The door slams shut behind her as Mr. Wilkins is left behind bewildered. Murmuring to himself, Mr. Wilkins climbs up the stool and uses the open laptop to watch her as asked, all the while giving periodic directions to his girl.
The figure of the student known as Tanya swiftly makes her way through the bright foliage campus grounds denoting autumn. 56 arrives at one of the favorite locations of #32 at sunset, the school’s extravagant, large water fountain. A young man sits at the edge with his back towards her gazing at the sunset as a cool fall breeze playfully rustles through his air.
56 narrows her eyes and purses her lips. “Tell me, who else is on the playing field and more importantly how do you know about them and have you informed our buyers?” 56 coldly said.
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm but to add color to my sunset sky. A wonderful writer once said that and I find that I agree with him. There never is a scene that is quite as beautiful as the sight of the burning sun about to plunge to his tragic death,” #32 airily said.
“I don’t think that’s what the writer meant,” 56 murmured back.
“Really? I thought so. But I suppose it’s all a matter of personal interpretation,” #32 mumbled.
“Yes, I suppose so. Well, aren’t you going to answer my question?”
“I find that such questions are meaningless as they are the one and the same. But for the sake of our old friendship, I will answer one of your questions. But take heed, I will only answer one.”
56 is silent in thought, before carefully saying, “If I were to ask about the identity of the new player, would you tell?”
“Beware of the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Anything more I cannot say,” #32 earnestly replied.
56 frowns at famous words of the poem, “Jabberwocky.” But #32 wouldn’t have said those lines without cause. But knowing that she was running out of time, 56 says, “Very well, my question is how do you know about these new players? Your source?”
#32 clicks his tongue against his mouth and ruefully says, “That’s two questions, my dear, but I will answer the first. I have friends on the other side and that’s all I can say.”
56 grinds her teeth together knowing she can’t ask for more details. “Fine! Let me know when it’s time to join in and play,” 56 hissed in anger, before stomping away. In her anger, she almost runs into the approaching figure of Miss Starr.
56 swiftly composes herself and resumes the role of Tanya. Waving her hand in greeting, Tanya cheerfully greets Miss Starr, “Are you also here to enjoy the sunset, Miss Starr?”
The young man figure seated at the fountain stiffens and slowly straightens as #17 approaches. #017 keeps her eyes fixed on the figure seated at the fountain. But she still politely says, “I was just going on a walk to enjoy the sunset. I seem to have walked further than I tended, please allow me to accompany you back, Miss Tanya.”
Tanya beams with delight, but seeing Miss Starr staring at the fountain she swiftly remembers to introduce the student seated at the fountain. “This is my friend, Lucius Faye, we’re both in the same department,” Tanya sweetly said.
Lucius Faye, the arrogant youth from the first day slowly turns around and faces forward. Their two gazes violently clash, almost threatening to create sparks out of thin air. Tanya uneasily takes a step back as a deeper unspoken message seems to be, being conveyed between the two of them.
Tanya returns her gaze to the figure of Lucius and tries to see what Miss Starr is seeing. Shoulder length, stark white snow hair, sharp handsome features, an arrogant smile and cold beige eyes. Attractive? Certainly, much like a deadly iceberg in an unsuspecting ships path.
The silent battle over, #017 turns around and says, “Shall we go, Tanya?”
Tanya sweetly chimes, “Yes, let’s. Would you like to have a bite to eat with me, Miss Starr?”
Moving forward without glancing back, #017 flatly answers over her shoulder, “No, I already had dinner.”
Tanya sighs with disappointment and swiftly follows. But the air of danger at her back does not dissipate but rather increases causing Tanya to rush forward and almost cling to Miss Starr. The waves of pressure don’t fade and Tanya can almost swear that she can feel those cold eyes of Lucius all the way back to her dorm. With glee, Tanya separates from Miss Starr and heads off to the dorm cafeteria with her friends. Happy to forget about the tiring incidents of today.
#017 closes the door behind her and tiredly slumps against the door onto the carpeted floor. #017 rests her knees on her knees as Mr. Wilkins stares at his girl with concern. “What’s wrong?” Mr. Wilkins asked.
“Nothing, I’m just tired, that’s all,” #017’s muffled reply emerged from between her knees.
Mr. Wilkins doesn’t answer, not believing his girl’s words. Mr. Wilkins returns his gaze to the monitors, but he didn’t find anything unusual to disapprove her claim. Mr. Wilkins can only say, “Alright, then. Then how about I make you some s’more brownies, huh?”
“Sweets at this late hour?” #017 warily said, having remembered the last cake incident, where the oven door exploded off its hinges. And caused, Matron Tilly, to put Mr. Wilkins on her special list. Which meant, Mr. Wilkins was prohibited from approaching any kitchens on campus, (that was not his own), or volunteer in the cafeteria and any other event involving cooking.
“Hmph, I am a much better cook since then,” Mr. Wilkins loftily alleged.
“That was only three weeks ago,” #017 drily answered.
“I’ll use the instant mix this time, I’m not yet ready to create such masterpieces from scratch. I need to further study and refine my cooking techniques,” Mr. Wilkins proudly proclaimed. #017 wisely knows better than to argue and retreats to the safety of her room. And should the oven explode off its hinges again, she would be bunkered down behind a door.