Machine Girl: Hard Times Call For Hardware – Chapter 4

Stace shrugged and waved, “See ya in class V.”

“Ms. Kneepkens, I need to make sure I’m prepared for my first class.  I can’t afford to miss any more, I don’t want to fall behind.”

“Quiet Scott, you have always been too chatty.  It was a problem in middle school and it prevails now.”  She fixed eyes too beautiful to be a part of that massive frame on Victoria, “You are in a serious amount of trouble, now quiet until we get to my office.”

Her mind was racing, what did she know?  Did someone tell her about the mission?  About the accident?  About Adam?  No, that couldn’t be.  Even if Big K had learned something somehow what difference would it make in her schooling?  They entered in silence, Victoria was nervous even with the calming influence that Adam always seemed to exert in these situations.  Maybe he was feeling the pressure too.

The Principal, Mr. Kucera was there.  Jean had always seemed to be a good guy but he didn’t have enough of a spine to stand up when it was appropriate.  She had seen him shouted down by parents whose child hadn’t met the grade requirements for some sports team or another at a school board meeting.

But that was back when she had extra time.  Back when she was in the National Honor Society.  Back before her accident had changed her outlook on life.  As cliché as it might have seemed before, it was clear to her now that she needed to look out for herself before paying attention to the needs of others.  It only made sense.

“Have a seat Scott.  Now, do you mind telling us what happened Wednesday during your mid-terms?”  Big K sat at the head of the table, Victoria chose a chair on the side, opposite Jean.

“Are you referring to my History test?  When that jerk accused me of cheating and I quoted the textbook back at him?”  Victoria asked.

“This is very serious Miss Scott.”  Jean’s voice was subdued, “Please understand us, this situation is very serious.”

“Describe if you would, exactly how you did it?”  Donna Kneepkens leaned forward, the table creaking under her weight, “How did you manage to cheat on your mid-terms?  Was it your computer friends?  Did you hack the teacher’s test files before the exams?”

“Wait just a minute here, this is total bul- uh- I mean I did NOT cheat on my exams!”

“I just don’t understand it Miss Scott.  You are such a talented young lady, why would you resort to such obvious and extreme measures?”  Jean said giving her a furtive but accusatory look.

“She’s just like the rest of them.  Thinks she can get away with anything because she’s pretty and on the cheer squad.”  Donna’s eyes narrowed.

“I would like to see what evidence you have that I cheated.”  Victoria said hotly, “I study hard for my grades.  Hell, I missed a quarter of this term because I was in the hospital and I still managed to do OK when I got back.”

“That.  Is exactly the problem.”  Donna pulled out a file folder, removed a piece of paper and slid it across the table to Victoria.  “First you are gone for seven weeks, then when you return your daily work is nearly flawless.  Needless to say I began paying closer attention when I heard the teachers talking about your supposed genius in the lounge.  This is all the evidence I needed and you were arrogant enough to provide it to me.”

Victoria picked up the sheet of paper.  It was her mid-term test results.  She stared at them in disbelief, “I aced them ALL?”  She looked over the paper again, and couldn’t believe her eyes, perfect scores all the way down the line.

“There were college level calculus problems thrown in there just to maintain the curve.  Your English essay reads like an encyclopedia entry.  One of the formulas on your chemistry test was written incorrectly, quite by accident I’m told, and you corrected the error, made a notation of it and solved it even though it was possible to get an answer the way it was.”

Donna’s voice was silky soft, a look of triumph on her sweat-slicked face, “I don’t think I need to talk about your History test.  If this had happened with ONE of your exams you would be a genius.  With it happening on ALL of your exams you are a dirty little cheater!  Now tell me HOW did you do it and WHO helped you?”

“I don’t need this shit.  I worked my ASS off to stay on top of things despite missing a lot of school.  I’ve had a TERRIBLE week and all I wanted to do was get things back to some semblance of normal but because I’m smart and pretty, unless I misheard your words earlier Kneepkens, you think you can accuse me of cheating?  I’m out of here.”  Victoria stood up fast, the actuators on her legs causing the backs of her knees to strike the chair she had been sitting hard enough that it did a complete backflip before slamming into the wall and falling to the floor.

“One week detention.” Donna said.

“Are you kidding me?”  Victoria was incredulous, “For what?  Getting pissed off for being called a cheater?”

“For cursing in my presence.  Keep talking if you want another week put on top of it.” The oily grin was enough to give Victoria the self-control she needed to calm down.

Victoria took a deep breath.  “May I be excused?”

“Certainly Scott, we don’t want you missing any class.”  Donna smiled an oily smile.  Jean looked like he’d swallowed something and it had started moving.

Pausing at the door, Victoria looked back over her shoulder, “I don’t know what brought this on, I don’t know what vendetta you have against me but if you pursue this I will win.  I did not cheat on my mid-terms, you have no proof other than that I’m exceptional.  After I win, I will find whatever secrets you have no matter what they are, regardless of how well hidden and I will use them to ruin you.”

She turned and strode out the door, listening with satisfaction to the choked sounds of indignation coming from her opponents.  Another student was running down the hallway and Victoria had to spin on one foot, tilting her body at an angle that should have been impossible in order to avoid a collision.  It would have been impossible without the unique construction of her new artificial legs.

“Sorry!” The boy yelled, not slowing down at all and disappeared around a corner.

Shrugging, Victoria began walking to her class and the hall phone caught her eye.  Last fall, the school had upgraded to a new VoIP phone system, and the fact that it was now all digital and running over Ethernet cable meant it was connected to the school’s network.  On impulse, she hacked the school’s WIFI connection and tried to track down the phone in Kneepkens’s office.  With Adam’s help it was a cakewalk, she listened in through the speaker phone.

“-n’t possibly know anything.”  Donna was saying.

“But she looked right at me, she must know something!  I don’t know how but she has found us out!”  Said Jean, “This could be the end of our careers, we might even do jail time!”

“Jail time?”  Donna snorted, a sound like ripping canvas.  “Jean, there is no possible way we would go to prison for this, but don’t worry.  I’m telling you, she’s an eighteen year old girl who needs to cheat to get good grades.  She just doesn’t have what it takes to find shit on us.  We’ve been too careful, and she’s too stupid.  Now shut up before someone overhears you.”

Well.  That was interesting.  What on Earth could they be up to?  Victoria filed that tidbit away for future reference; she had only intended to make them sweat a little bit.  Just keep them looking over their shoulders when sneaking office supplies or whatever, but it seemed like she’d hit the jackpot.

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