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Robot Academy: Origin Phase Cycle, #2

Robot Academy: Origin Phase Cycle, #2

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Robot Academy: Origin Phase Cycle, #2

Lunghezza:
470 pagine
6 ore
Pubblicato:
Jan 4, 2019
ISBN:
9781386952565
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

Brought together . . . and torn apart

Cynic Jack Ryerson. Here to escape. Idealist Syd Birkett. Here to learn. Roommates at Robot Academy, a postgraduate course in human-robot understanding.

But Syd and Jack get caught up in an explosive conflict as anti-robot propaganda spreads through the school.

Passions ignite. Tensions rise. Now Jack, Syd, and their friends are learning lessons no school would dare teach.

Robot Academy is the second book in the Origin Phase Cycle. Book 1 is Origin Phase, and Book 3 is Oasis. All the books of the Origin Phase Cycle are complete 400+‑page novels, and the cycle can be read in any order.

Time Travel. Adventure. Romance. Intrigue. Passion. All at the intersection of science fiction and fantasy. Your timeless journey starts now.

Pubblicato:
Jan 4, 2019
ISBN:
9781386952565
Formato:
Libro

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Robot Academy - R. T. W. Lipkin

Ronn

Chapter 1

Get out, i said.

It’s bad enough being thirty-one years old and back at school, although of course in some ways I agreed to it, but still. Why did I agree to it? The bet, I mean. Or this.

I believe this is my room, the intruder said. He was speaking extremely quietly. Too quietly for my liking.

Check again, I said. I really can’t stand being bothered by anyone. Especially not while trying to orient myself, here in this strange place.

Room 17? the intruder said. He hadn’t left yet.

I pushed him—gently—out the door and closed it behind him. He was kind of a big guy, a bit reminiscent of my father, so I was happy to be rid of him. Not that I’d want to get rid of my father, but I certainly wouldn’t want to live in this small room with him. Or with anybody, really.

Maybe an incredibly fantastic woman who would just wait for me and be invisible the rest of the time. What that says about me. Well.

When I arrived yesterday I knew immediately I’d made a mistake. I’m always making mistakes so this was nothing too different. Maybe it was instead encouraging, reassuring. My usual modus operandi. Jack Ryerson, the maker of mistakes.

The first mistake I’d made—the first one I could have made—was being born outside of what should have been my time of origin. That’s the kind of big mistake I’m famous for. The kind of huge mistake I’m capable of and am kind of an expert at.

It’s more than just a characteristic or hobby, it’s more of a life tendency. Maybe it’s my essential essence or whatever one of my mother’s friends would call it. Selena, I mean. She’s full of nonsense phrases like that.

But her husband . . . And . . .

Knock knock knock knock knock.

That was four knocks too many. Very persistent, this intruder.

I opened the door, and he was standing there as though he’d never moved since I’d closed the door on him. Perhaps he hadn’t. Not everyone needs to move around constantly, like my thoughts.

"This is Room 17," he said.

You are correct, I said. This is Room 17.

This is in fact my room, he said. He kind of loomed over me. I’m tall—nearly six-two—but this fellow was incredibly tall, had maybe another four inches on me. Big shoulders too. But a gentle face. All topped off by a thatch of light brown hair.

So I looked up at him, which I was used to, having spent my entire life looking up at my father, who’s also got at least four inches on me.

Was I doomed to forever be in the company of some too-tall fellow?

When . . . before . . .

But my thoughts were as always interrupted.

You’ll have to talk to the room assignor, whoever that is, I said, and I shut the door again.

I sat on the floor by the doorjamb. Thirty-one years old, having volunteered to go back to school—I guess volunteered is how I’d decided to think of it—disoriented, and living in that too-small room.

Really, the small rooms in that Victorian mansion were much more spacious, and except for a few thousand reasons I could think of pretty quickly and a few hundred more I could come up with given the chance and an hour or two, I preferred it there. Or might have.

The door opened and the big guy walked in and gazed down on me. His stare made me feel like I couldn’t stand up, so I didn’t. Can someone’s stare keep you in place? This one did. Others have done as well.

"This is my room, he said. Room 17."

"This is my room, I said. Room 17." There was nothing else really to say. It was my room. But I had a terrible feeling that it was his room too. Yet I was resisting it and doing my best to prevent it.

There are lots of empty rooms in this corridor, I said from my position of weakness and subservience there on the floor. Go try one of them.

I was assigned here, he said. I gave the guy credit for being direct, anyway. I can’t stand circuitous conversations and indirect or metaphorical references. Say what you mean. Speak the truth. I want that. Not that I ever get that. Or have gotten that.

"I was assigned here," I said.

You must be my roommate, then, he said. Sydney Birkett. He put out his hand, but I was too far below him to do anything about it.

I’m not supposed to have a roommate. Definitely not. I neither requested a roommate nor was informed of any possibility of one. The room was far too small for that. A cat, perhaps, maybe what I mean is a kitten, a small kitten, but not someone who’s four inches taller and far bigger than me.

I was told I couldn’t have a room by myself, he said. I believe having a roommate—that’s one of the things we’re here for. One of the points of this place.

Is it? I said. I was feeling more and more disoriented. So I stood up. That should have leveled something, but I was still looking up at this huge guy.

Jack Ryerson, I said, finally. I held out my hand and Birkett shook it. Firmly.

Eli’s son? he said.

As expected. That’s what everyone says. There’s no getting away from it. Even here at this special college at the Acres immediately referred to by the students simply as Robot Academy. Because that’s a far more descriptive name than the intentionally vague Astor Sciences Continuum is.

Although I thought of the place as merely the Acres. That’s what it’d been called for centuries, long before anyone thought of throwing robots and humans in here together.

I must be, I said. Whose son are you?

I’m a robot, Birkett said. He looked nothing at all like a robot. He looked more like my father, who, as far as I know, isn’t a robot. But it did get me wondering.

I mean, the Acres, what happened all those centuries ago, my father’s involvement. What was it called? The Gas Cloud, I think. That. And now this. Whatever this might be.

So I knew this fellow probably was supposed to be my roommate and that I was doomed to spend the next however many days, weeks, and months it was going to be trapped in this small space with Syd Birkett, robot.

Persistent robot. Tall, looming, reminding-me-of-my-father robot.

Chapter 2

I’ve got the mark, the same mark all robots have to have now. Put on me right before I was activated, thirty-one months ago. I feel for it sometimes. It’s on my neck and not immediately noticeable, but it is noticeable if that’s what you’re looking for.

It’s neither attractive nor unattractive, neither bold nor receding, and it’s certainly not something I would’ve chosen had I had that choice. I would’ve chosen nothing. I have no affinity for adornments or markings of any kind although I do like the feel of clothing.

Here at Robot Academy I’d observed that this mark’s what the humans look for first. I expected it. So it was surprising that Jack Ryerson, Eli’s son, didn’t look, didn’t notice, and I had to tell him I’m a robot.

I’d say that other than that mark I look nothing like a robot, but no robot looks anything like a classical robot, one of those stiff things with metal arms and a square head and a bulky, ungainly gait.

Robots only ever looked like that in fabulas from centuries past, yet that image somehow worked its way into the general consciousness of everyone, and a human-looking robot like me—as opposed to a robotic machine who looks like an enormous cube with a few articulated appendages and a giant off switch—is still an odd surprise and somehow unwanted.

Humans step slightly away and think robots don’t notice. I notice.

As if that’s not bad enough, they—the humans—have discovered over the past few decades that making humanlike robots like myself and throwing us out into the world without any previous exposure to humans or human so-called culture wasn’t working out very well. Or wasn’t working out as planned. Or as desired. By humans.

The robots were not familiar with human customs, and the humans were nearly as uncomfortable around robots as they had been for the past several hundred years, despite our ubiquitous and benign presence.

Despite our usefulness and kindness. Despite our what humans might call humanness.

They started Robot Academy to smooth some of these things over, to give us robots a chance to live with humans while learning about them, and to give humans a chance to live with robots while learning about us. All in a sort of protected, semi-isolated environment.

I was in the first class of Robot Academy, as was Jack Ryerson, my roommate. Although he was apparently not expecting a roommate, much less a robot roommate, I knew from the start that I’d be living in this quite-small room with a human.

That there was only one sleep mat in the room was my first clue that whoever was running the academy knew next to nothing about robots, and it was probably why, or one of the reasons why, Jack was so surprised when I showed up.

But that they didn’t inform him of me, of the inevitability of my showing up and living with him—I think that must have been part of the training. For both of us. Forcing us to communicate and negotiate right from the get-go.

How is Eli? I asked, practicing some of the social skills I’d hoped to refine and hone.

I imagine he’s all right, Jack answered. I’ll tell him you asked.

Thank you. That would be an honor, I said. Jack snorted. Snorting was a skill I had yet to try out for myself. But I would.

Damn you! Jack said. "I was being sarcastic! Why the hell would I tell my father, who I never speak to, that you—a robot he doesn’t even know exists—asked after him? Think about it! Use some of those consciousness convolutions or whatever they’re called to pick up on my not very hidden meaning. My obviously intended meaning."

I prefer directness, I said. I did.

Well, so do I, Jack said, and I was instantly pleased that we had something in common, since this tiny room wasn’t really enough of a connection for us to bond emotionally, which was one of the reasons for our being here, and because other than that, I could sense nothing else that we had in common or that we might have in common or that we might cultivate.

Not that I had a lot of practice in that area. That’s why I needed to be at Robot Academy.

How many different zeitstelles have you lived in? I said. That was the kind of thing that humans liked to talk about in the books I’d read. In thirty-one months I’d read a few hundred thousand books and seen even more fabulas—entertainments that were often not in the least entertaining. But I had a duty. And I considered it research.

What? Jack started pacing around the room, a room that five of his paces completely covered. I think I was able to do it in four.

I’ve lived only in this zeitstelle, I said, although I had a passionately strong inclination toward zeitreise, and there I was in the same room with Eli Ryerson’s only child, who I was bonding with.

My chances of being able to go to another zeitstelle were increasing by the moment. Because Jack must have known all the secrets even though no one else seemed to.

How old are you? Jack asked.

Thirty-one, I said, although I was thirty-one and three days, yet I felt it wasn’t appropriate to be so precise. Precision’s one of the things about robots that’s off-putting to humans, according to what I’d read.

That’s a coincidence, he said. I’m also thirty-one.

Months, I said.

Years, he said. He sat back down on the floor. You’re a child, he said. He put his hand on his neck in the exact way that Eli’s hand was on his neck in an image of him I’d seen.

If we spend enough time together, you’ll learn about me, I said. I’ve been told to share everything, although I do have my own preferences and tolerances. And I also have privacy requirements.

If, Jack said. He looked out the window that took up the entire not-large wall opposite the door. If, if, if.

I’m quite honored to be in the first class of Robot Academy, I said, and to have such an illustrious roommate.

Quit the formalities, Jack said. He seemed to lack many of the qualities of humans that I’d come to expect—politeness, for example, and a drive to adhere to what’s called etiquette but what my limited observations have shown to be actually just prevarication and obfuscation.

Why are you here? I said, searching for something to cause him to open up to me. If he didn’t, I planned to request another roommate, because an uncommunicative human would be of no use to me.

I thought it’d be interesting, he said. This experiment. But after a couple of hours here, I’m seeing that I’ve made another one of my epic mistakes.

You can leave, I said, which is something that I can’t do. Something that I wouldn’t do.

Sure you can, he said. There’s the door. He held out his arm toward the door, which was right there, as was everything in the room.

I put my hand on my neck, a bad habit I picked up when I gained awareness of the robot mark. If I’m attempting to hide it, what I’m actually doing is calling attention to it. Yet I do it anyway.

And Jack had done something similar, so perhaps mirroring him would be helpful to our future relationship. If I was to succeed at the academy, this was the kind of thing I had to understand and incorporate.

The mark’s like a brand, although there aren’t different brands. They’re all the same mark, the same size, in the same place: a pikorua. Because robots are inextricably, permanently linked to humans.

I’m required to be here, I said, rubbing my hand against the mark. The requirement was solely my own, but it was immovable.

That makes two of us, Jack said. I’m required to be here as well. Unless I want to give up what I’ve always wanted, he said. Which I don’t think I want to.

I thought he was going to say more about that, but he didn’t, although his mouth seemed ready to speak again.

I have to get another sleep mat, I said. Unless you don’t use one.

You don’t just prop yourself up in the corner and power down? Jack said.

I have to procure another sleep mat, I said. It’s an honor to be your roommate, I said.

I walked out of the room without waiting for a response, without waiting for Jack to say, That makes one of us, which is what I heard him say while I was leaving.

Chapter 3

I’m not harboring yet someone else in here, I said the second I saw the new intruder. Syd had left the door open. I’d have to talk to him about that. Can’t leave and not close the door behind you. And now I had to socialize again.

Is Birkett around? the new annoyance said.

He went to get a sleep mat, I said. And who are you?

Philip Aks, he said.

I stared straight at his neck, which didn’t sport that thing Syd had been so embarrassed over, if that’s a correct interpretation of Syd’s emotional state. If robots can be embarrassed.

Except for Spencer, who Syd’s nothing at all like, I had little experience with robots. Although I quite like Spencer. Interesting sense of humor.

But Selena. She’s something else.

Human? I said.

I certainly hope so, Aks said. Would you like to see my credentials? He reached into his back pocket, but it was just a gesture, I’m pretty sure. You’re Eli Ryerson’s son, aren’t you?

"Would you like to see my credentials?" I said. Was there a sign on the door letting everyone know that the great Eli Ryerson’s failed son was occupying Room 17? Sent here against his wishes.

An ultimatum of sorts.

Here’s your chance to make something of yourself. Of your life. Take it or . . .

Because of what had happened. Although . . .

I stood up. I was spending entirely too much time on the floor of this tiny room.

I’m local, Aks said. Astor City’s my home, but everyone’s required to live in the dorm. Seems odd, that. Not being a kid anymore. I had to get a leave from my job at the agency, get someone to stay at my apartment, although that part was easy. Great place. Anyone’d be happy to get it.

He looked around my room. Spacious, he said. My apartment, I mean. He laughed.

They’re trying this out on us more mature types—didn’t want to destroy any young minds, I said. But. What had he said? The agency? What agency?

Astor City Agency, Aks said. You know, keeping the peace.

Easy job, I said, what with there being nothing but peace.

Aks laughed a very hearty laugh, which made me instantly like him, something I’m not used to doing. Usually I instantly reserve judgment until a much later time. Except for that once, you know.

Jack Ryerson, I said, and we shook hands. I am indeed Eli’s son, but maybe we could forget about that for a while. Forever.

Sure, Aks said. I’m someone’s son, too, but never mind that. I certainly don’t. Do you know where Birkett got to? I was supposed to talk with him about—

He stopped abruptly. He put his hands in his pants pockets, then took them out and folded his arms across his chest, then unfolded his arms and pushed one hand across his extremely short, nearly colorless hair.

Cough it up, I said. If you start keeping secrets this early in the game. Well. You know how it could be. I despise secrets, and anyway a secret is just going to be found out eventually. That’s the inevitability of it all.

There are no secrets except to the secretkeepers, who are just kidding themselves.

I was supposed to prepare him to meet with you the first time, Aks said. He looked whatever his version of sheepish might look like, although he wasn’t the sheepish type by a long shot. More like the roll-over-you-with-information-and-energy type. The taking-over type.

Too late, I said.

I see that, Aks said.

Maybe you could prepare me instead, I said. You seem to know what’s what.

Not really, Aks said, "although I have been here for a week already and you just got here. You did just get here, didn’t you?"

This morning, I said. And I’ve been here long enough.

You’ll get used to the place. Although these rooms—that’s something else again. But this building is an antique. Maybe the oldest on the property.

Syd went to get a sleep mat, as I’ve already said. Should be back soon.

They weren’t set up for that, Aks said. The sleep mats. There aren’t enough. Shows you how uninformed the administration is. We’ll soon find out what else they don’t know, with classes starting tomorrow, don’tcha know.

Tomorrow? Wasn’t it supposed to be Thursday?

Tomorrow’s Thursday. The schedule’s distributed on all the scrolls.

Damn and hell.

Yeah. Back at school, rooming with robots, and taking part in an experiment.

How about some dinner? I said. I’m not even sure where the food’s located.

As soon as Syd gets back, we can trot down to the mess. It’s not bad, really, and I’m no good at food prep, so this is almost a vacation for me. Great to have someone else doing all the kitchen work.

Robots? I said.

What?

Doing all the kitchen work?

You’ve got a lot to learn, Aks said just as Syd returned, a sleep mat furled under his arm and a ridiculous grin plastered on his face.

Chapter 4

Got the last one, I said. I was proud of myself. Even though I wasn’t doing very well with Jack, I’d used all my human-oriented skills and had successfully procured the mat, the last mat.

That was the kind of thing I was here to learn, to get the hang of, to perfect, and I was immensely pleased with myself. I was getting things right, if not with Jack then at least with other humans.

Philip Aks, said the man talking with Jack. I put the mat down in the corner nearest the window, then we shook hands. With three of us in this room, there was hardly space for the two mats, which were the only objects in here. Everything else was in the closet, which mercifully had a pocket door.

Sydney Birkett, I said. Weren’t we supposed to meet earlier? I looked for you.

Yeah, Phil said. I was detained. My roomie hasn’t shown up and I was trying to get the facts, find out where he was.

Did you know there are women in this corridor? I said to Phil and Jack.

I don’t know anything, Jack said, and I kept myself from reminding him of the complete inaccuracy of his statement, since there are many things he obviously knows. I congratulated myself for toning down my perfectionist tendencies.

I’ve had very little contact with women, I said. They’re beautiful. I didn’t mention the new sensations I’d experienced when I saw them. One in particular, really, a tremendously energetic blonde. She was radiating a completely different something from anything I’d so far experienced.

Not all women, Jack said. He sounded bitter, if I read the cues properly, which I might not’ve, which was one of the reasons I was at Robot Academy.

Perhaps I’ll see those unbeautiful women later today. Do you have a robot roommate, Phil? I said.

"I thought you fellows preferred android, Phil said. Robot has so many negative connotations, don’tcha know. And you’re hardly one of those metal crates that’s created to do one repetitive task. Clunk, bang, crash. That sort of thing."

"I prefer the way robot sounds, I said. More euphonious than android. Snappier, more upbeat." And it stands by itself, not referring back to humans.

If you say so, Jack said. He was staring out the window again.

I ran into someone I knew from the factory just now, I said. Maybe I could get Jack’s attention with news, with information, with what might be called interest.

Where you were made? Jack said before he sat back down on the floor. Slumped, really.

Are you tired? I asked. Being solicitous is one of the things I had to practice. That I had to pay attention to.

Hungry, Jack said. Starving. Ravenous.

No, I said. From where I worked. I had a factory job until two weeks ago. It was very enjoyable. Joe Blakely. He never has much to say. He was very good at his job.

Phil’s entire demeanor changed just then. Blakely? he said. You saw him? That’s my roommate, don’tcha know? Couldn’t find him anywhere. I was beginning to think he was invisible. Hard to locate, anyway. Blasted difficult. Yet you found him! Good work, Birkett. He slapped me on the back, and I smiled.

He was outside Room 8, I said. Looking preoccupied.

That’s me, Phil said. He clapped his hands. Let’s get going. We’ll stop by my room, pick up Blakely, and head for the mess.

Finally, Jack said, and stood up. Finally.

I saw him take a last look out the window as we were leaving the room. Was there something out there that was of special importance to him?

Shut the door, Jack said. Don’t leave it open.

I closed it, taking one fast glance out the window before I did. But whatever Jack was so interested in out there was not obvious to me. I had a lot to learn.

Chapter 5

It’s like i was pulled forward by some kind of inexorable current, sweeping me along in its relentless path. A tidal wave, is more like it. Whatever I may have wanted, it became irrelevant. Instead I was made part of this, whatever this was.

Participating. Engaging. Allowing.

The giant Syd, who, maybe now that I’d been railroaded into a friendship with the hypertalkative Phil, didn’t seem so bad.

Having to share my room. Being at the Acres.

It was too much. If I’d known.

Of course, I didn’t know or my life would’ve been completely other. Not this. And my life seemed defined by what I haven’t known.

I wanted to shut it all down.

The four of us—Syd, Phil, Joe, and me—took our trays and found a table near a window. The cafeteria was partially underground, so the windows were above us, but I didn’t want to sit in the middle of the room.

That Syd and Joe had trays with food on them. And then they ate the food.

Phil looked at me, and he must’ve sensed my confusion, since I didn’t say anything.

New breed, this, Phil said. Birkett and Blakely here— He stopped.

No offense meant, he said to the robots when he started up again. "Maybe breed wasn’t such a good choice of words. But, what I mean is that they’re running on a different metabolism. Using food, for example. Read all about it before I got here. Terrific advance, that. Amazing, don’tcha know."

Seems like a step backward to me, I said.

Syd and Joe said nothing, but ate their meals, seemingly enjoying their food. Syd was indulging in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and Joe was chowing down on a bowl of rice with some vegetables in it, which was, coincidentally, what I was having as well. The food wasn’t bad.

Phil had wolfed down two or three sandwiches of something or other and had moved on to a candy bar, which he was also devouring rather quickly.

While I was shoveling rice into my mouth, Syd, who was sitting next to me, abruptly stood up, startling me. Was this some kind of stealth robot maneuver?

Could I trust this fellow I was going to room with for however long it was going to be?

I saw you in the corridor, he said. So I looked up.

There was the beautiful woman Syd must’ve been referring to when he said there were beautiful women here.

The kind of beautiful my own mother is—blond, charismatic, self-possessed, shapely. Everything just right. Everything.

So I instantly despised her.

I saw you earlier, she said to Syd, who looked like he was going to throw up. Instead, he nodded and said nothing.

Good move. Saying things to women can only be a mistake. As I know.

Helene Ostby, she said.

By this time both Phil and Joe had also stood. I refused to. The tide had pulled me far enough along for one day. For one lifetime. Although.

Philip Aks, Phil said to her, holding out his hand and taking hers like it was the most precious thing he’d ever had the privilege of touching. Maybe it was.

I glanced up and saw Syd’s hand on his neck.

Would I have to fill out a report later? Highly susceptible to embarrassment would head the list. Followed by Falls in love easily. Followed by Possibly defective model—consider terminating.

This is my roomie, Joe Blakely, Phil said, ramming ahead in his voluble style. That’s Sydney Birkett, he said, pointing to Syd. And sitting down there so rudely is the infamous Jack Ryerson.

Eli Ryerson’s son? Helene said.

Would it not ever end?

Yes, Syd said, finally finding his voice. It’s an honor to be his roommate.

I didn’t know you were going to be here, Helene said. To me, I suppose.

Just lucky, I guess, I said.

I, too, am quite lucky, Syd said.

He held out his hand and the gorgeous Helene grasped it and they held hands like that, over the table. In front of my field of vision. Across my path, across everyone’s path. Ignoring everyone else, ignoring me, for what seemed like two and a half hours.

I’m in Room 9, Helene said. Finally.

Across the hall from us, Joe said. This was the first I’d heard him talk. We’d all—robots and human alike—been mesmerized by the thundercloud known as Helene Ostby.

Who reminded me of my mother. Hence my immunity.

Yet I could picture Helene and Syd together—a couple not unlike my own parents—and it killed me.

Visions of them doing . . . I stopped thinking that. Useless. As are most of my thoughts.

Your roommate? Phil said.

He’d obviously sensed it was already hopeless between him and Helene. Between anyone who wasn’t Syd and Helene. So he’d turned his attentions to her unknown-to-us, unseen-by-us roommate.

Maybe she’d be the unbeautiful woman Syd was so anxious to finally meet.

She must be around here somewhere. I’ve barely had a chance to get settled, Helene said.

She and Syd were still clutching each other’s hands.

I was reminded not just of my parents but of the kind of sappy fabulas they favor. The kind of stuff they indulge in when they’re not busy with their heaving grunts and lusty screams, still going on all these years into their marriage.

Although I was an only child. I think there might’ve been a miscarriage later. Not that they’d discuss that with me.

That or anything else. Any of the great secrets.

But. Syd Birkett.

I had to tear my gaze away before Helene peeled off her too-tight one-piece and threw herself on top of him.

Syd.

This was the New Robot—a fellow who sleeps on a mat, pretends to be sociable, eats human food, and foolishly falls in love with the first beautiful woman he sees.

Chapter 6

That’s where it started. In the mess. It’d started in the hallway, but nothing had happened there, although a lot had happened to me there. But until that moment there was no us.

This was a kind of bonding that I’d read about. Effortless and inevitable. I’d vaguely hoped it might happen to me, but I had no idea that it would happen that day, my first day at Robot Academy.

I really was extremely, hugely, immensely lucky.

To have Jack Ryerson—Eli Ryerson’s son!—as my roommate. To meet the superb Helene Ostby. So beautiful. To be in the first class of Robot Academy. To get the last sleep mat. To meet the enjoyable and entertaining Phil Aks. To find out that Joe was here. To be in existence. To have all those wonderful things just given to me.

While we held hands whatever and whoever was around me seemingly melted away, just like in a storybook. Just like in a romantic storybook. It was just me and Helene. I couldn’t let go. She couldn’t let go. I was ready to pledge myself to her for eternity but something stopped me from doing it right then.

Classes were starting the next day. I had a long stay at Robot Academy ahead of me and so did Helene. There’s

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