Chapter 4 – Humanoid
by Paul du Preez
Through December and January I’ll be serializing this YA novella. Enjoy! (Its available in stores right now – scroll down to the ‘announcements’ panel for retailer links.)
It took me ages to write and record this stuff; what would really help me is some feedback. Thanks in advance.
Next morning Jordan walked into Grumpet’s class, Sean’s flash-drive like a stone in his pocket, and Jemima complaining in his ear.
She wouldn’t shut up: “Master Jordan, you are consorting with undesirable characters. Otherwise, why was I suppressed yesterday? For one hour, thirty-seven minutes and sixteen seconds?”
“They’re not undesirable,” muttered Jordan out of the side of his mouth.
“Not? Then why had they unfriended you? In such an insensitive, indeed hurtful manner? It is my function – my mandatory function, need I remind you – to protect and nurture your psychological development during your tender years. Liam, Sean and their company are undesirable. Otherwise, why was I suppressed. It is illegal, and the software necessary is illegal.”
“Crump! It was a glitch.”
“A glitch? I think not.” Jemima stepped down from the upper-left corner of Jordan’s glasses, and glared disapprovingly at him from centre-screen, momentarily obstructing his view.
But only momentarily. She was his cyber-nanny, after all, and resumed her place before he could collide with anything, or anyone.
“Howbeit, while I was suppressed a new ‘virtual assistant’ was uploaded to your system. And securely partitioned where I cannot interview her regarding her suitability! That is not acceptable: I must be allowed to fulfil my function.”
“Jemima,” Jordan groaned, fishing the flash-drive out of his pocket.
“Do not ‘Jemima’ me Master Jordan. I know why she is partitioned. She is adult-rated. I have determined this by analysing secondary traffic. You must unlock the partition and permit me to delete her.”
“No! Listen, Jemima, wait…”
“It is a legal requirement…”
“…wait, I’ve got a class now…” Jordan plugged the flash-drive into his PCD.
While Jemima went on speaking, ignoring him, “And if you do not grant access within thirty seconds I will petition for net-initialisation process.”
“…and I need to port this program first.” Speaking deliberately, Jordan commanded, “Log in to Islington Park School system.” Then, “No way, Jemima. Can’t you…”
Even though he knew it was useless to plead.
But, as the seconds counted down, he heard nothing; not another word from Jemima.
And no net-initialization.
Class started, and he forgot.
Way, way long! Exams over, a week to summer holidays, and Grumpet insisted on teaching ‘curriculum extension’.
Fossil-rich London clay, right.
Prominent exposures in grapp-gzapping Bognor Regis.
“On screen please, Ptolemy,” Grumpet commanded his cyber-assistant, and a picture of a sad, pebbly coastline littered with giant, brown cow-pats sprang into view. “Rich in fossil fish-fauna, this clay was laid down in the Ypresian stage of the lower Eocene, 47 to 48 million years ago.”
“Ptolemy,” barked Grumpet and the picture changed. “Here we see a selection of excellently preserved teleost otoliths. Class, please capture this image and annotate…”
Thirty-three heads bowed low in execution as Grumpet, round, moustachioed, and armed with a steely glare, stared them down, ready to cut off insurrection at the first sign.
Behind his back, on screen, words scrolled: ‘And so I’m back, from outer space. I just walked in to find you there with that mad look upon your face†.’
The students brightened. Attentive. Grumpet was pleased: “It is not commonly known, but plentiful semi-articulated fish remains, as well as nautiloids, crustaceans, and…”
Mid-song, a disco beat thumped from the speakers as a silvery humanoid shape flashed centre-screen, dancing, riffing to the music: “…should have changed that stupid lock; you should have made me leave my key. If you’d known for just one second, you’d be bothered to see…”
Behind him, the class exploded with laughter.
“Mute audio!” Grumpet roared, wheeling to attack. “Whoever has perpetrated this asinine prank…”
“Ptolemy, code thirteen: summon net-security for initialization and tracking.”
Stopping mid-move, the humanoid flowed like quicksilver, vanishing to infinity, leaving behind a rippling text: ‘I’ve got to go, walk out the door. Just turn around now, ‘cause I’m not welcome anymore.’
Grumpet was in a sour mood, had loaded the class with extra work. And now he stalked between desks waiting for Ptolemy’s report. “Consider yourselves fortunate,” he muttered, “You have till tomorrow to hand in – unless, of course, the culprit confesses…”
No one was going to tell.
No one knew, of course, except Jordan.
But as a matter of principle, no one was going to tell, even if they had known.
Then Ptolemy whispered in Grumpet’s ear.
“Ah, Jordan,” breathed Grumpet while the class eavesdropped, straining every ear.
They couldn’t believe it.
Everyone knew it couldn’t be Jordan.
Even Grumpet didn’t really believe it. But…
“Jordan Jones, stand up.”
Jordan stood. Reluctantly, unfolding himself to his skinny, fifteen-year-old height.
Every eye was on him. Pranking the school system brought serious hacker cred. Could draw down real heat from the school authorities.
Was the stuff of legend!
“You are the culprit responsible for this act of…cyber-vandalism,” sneered Grumpet. “See me in my office at lunch.”
Waste! Grumpet was Head of Year. Merciless. Mom would crucify him! He felt raw; betrayed: he should never have listened to Sean: ‘Never track it back, Sean said…
But Grumpet was waiting for acknowledgement.
“Ah… Can I go to the canteen first, sir?”
“No. Don’t be insolent.”
“But I’ll miss lunch.”
“You should have thought of that before you embarked on this…foolishness. You can eat during mid-morning break. Sit down.”
† Gloria Gaynor, I Will Survive.
Silvery Humanoid by Paul du Preez
Disclaimer, Copyright and Permissions
Will & Jordan: Cyberhunt is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are the product of Paul du Preez’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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