Saturday, November 20, 2010

TTU: The NICHE, Chapter Three

True Tales from University: The New International Club for Historical Enlightenment


I was given a sleeping pill that night and sent to bed. The worst of it was over, but that didn’t mean to say that Adrianna wouldn’t try and infiltrate again tonight. I, however, was dead to the world while the Historical Society were up most of the night defending me.
In the morning I woke up to find a shadow slung over me. I sat up quickly in bed and raised my hands to protect my face.
‘Fast reactions. That’s good,’ Ivan commented dryly. ‘It means the addiction is leaving you. Do you feel like going to class today, Andrew?’
I lowered my hands, feeling a bit embarrassed, but more pissed off. ‘Um... yeah, I guess.’
‘If you’re up to it, you’re free to go. Here’s the apartment key by the way.’ He chucked me a key, attached to a heavy key ring charm. I examined the charm. It was a heavy little sword. I wondered if it was another self defence thing, or just for decoration.
Ivan walked with me to class that day, but I had no chaperones between my classes. I was sluggish in class, but I tried to keep up. At the end of the day, I was met by Dave, and we walked back to the apartment in the fast fading light of day.
That night the club was once again in the apartment. Everyone was a little more relaxed this time, and there was some drinks, and a lot of pizza to go around. Saying that the whole club was in there would be incorrect. The Club for Historical Re-enactments was much larger than this. I was surrounded by who I guessed were the core members. I was pretty tired, and the club members didn’t push me too hard to socialise.
But later at night, I finally had a chance to talk to Ivan. Everyone was sitting around, looking tired. Ivan was on the couch next to me. ‘Now,’ I asked sleepily, ‘Are you going to tell me yet about the “last time”?’
Ivan looked around the circle of friends. Then he nodded. His smile was grim. ‘Yeah. It’s time.’ He relaxed back on the couch, an empty pizza box on his lap, having finished his last slice. He took a sip of his beer and looked at the wall as he spoke. ‘I came over here to study with my girlfriend Katerina. We found this place and settled in it. Things were going well. We got good grades. We joined the Society and made friends there. She and I were once King and Queen of the Court. It was pretty good.
‘But then we got another member in the club. We didn’t realise anything different about him at first. His name was Ilya, a Russian like us. Katerina and I took him under our wing, thinking to help him socialise better and become more acquainted with this country.
‘He and Katerina grew much closer than I realised. They spent a lot of time together without me. Then one day, with hardly any warning, Katerina left the apartment and went to live with Ilya. I accepted it. I didn’t know any better.’ He paused briefly to scratch the near invisible stubble on his jaw. ‘We all saw Katerina now and again on the campus. She looked as if she was getting sick. She was getting paler, weaker, very tired. Almost all of us had reason to comment about it, but she brushed us off.
‘Eventually, some of the girls in the club had reason enough to suspect that Ilya was being abusive to Katerina.’ I saw a couple of the girls of the group shift uncomfortably at the story. Perhaps Ivan was talking about them. ‘So one night, they decided to storm into the apartment and tell Ilya it was not on. They went after their classes, following Katerina, after the sun had set. They pushed into the apartment as Katerina unlocked it, and thought to confront Ilya. But he revealed his true form to them. They tried to take Katerina from him, but he took the last of her blood and ran after the girls. They escaped, because there were lots of people around. It was dangerous for Ilya.
‘At first we didn’t believe. But the next day Ilya’s apartment was the scene of a murder investigation. Police came to me to report Katerina’s death, and to question me. That was when –‘
The doorbell rang. Everyone jumped. There had been such a silence beforehand that the doorbell’s ring was violent to our ears. Ivan stood up and opened the door, checking through the peep hole first before he did. ‘Aha. Our good friend, Amber.’
‘I hope I’m not late,’ I heard the woman say as she walked past Ivan.
‘Not at all. Come, meet Andrew.’
I stood weakly, and held out my hand. Amber shook it. She was older than the rest of us, perhaps by five or ten years, but she had a youthful vibrancy about her. Ivan continued, ‘Andrew, this is Amber, our choreographer. And, well, a lot more.’
‘Nice to meet you Andrew,’ Amber reassured me as she let go of my hand. ‘Have you told him about the last time?’
‘I was halfway through it. Grab some dinner, there’s pizza on the bench. I’ll continue.’
Amber busied herself picking out some food in the kitchen, but she kept her ears trained on the conversation. Ivan carried on. ‘Amber found us, after Katerina’s murder. You see, Amber is a lecturer at the university. In the past, she was part of a social club, one that was quite secret, and eventually fell into disuse. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Amber had heard from Rhiannon and Nicola, the two girls who saw Katerina die. The fact that there was another vampire skulking around the university and its students alerted Amber to the need for the social club to be started again.’
I shook my head. ‘This is getting confusing. What social club are we talking about now? Not the Re-enactments Society?’
‘No. The Society is just a front. The real club is behind it, and is made up of fewer members. Members trained to carry on a sacred mission of protecting the university. This club is called the NICHE. That is an acronym for “The New International Club for Historical Enlightenment”.’
‘And this club protects the university?’ I asked, sceptically. ‘The name doesn’t seem to suggest anything about protection…’
‘We have several intertwined missions, Andrew. All revolve around the specific “Historical Enlightenment”. We protect the university, because somewhere on its grounds is a secret that could change the world.’
‘And that secret is…?’
Ivan scratched his stubbly chin again, and looked away, thinking. I thought he was going to refuse to tell me, but he carried on. ‘Well, it’s complicated. We don’t know exactly what it is we are looking for, or its purpose. But somewhere on the university grounds is a device that we have to protect. It cannot fall into the hands of any outside parties, least of all the vampires. This device was worked on by several different scientists and engineers, over generations, at this university. But for some reason it was locked away. The writings we have suggest it was perhaps….’ He drifted into silence here and looked at me seriously, ‘As silly as it sounds, it could have been the key to eternal life.’
I peered at him, and shook my head. ‘Okay, that’s ridiculous, and for quite a few reasons. One, you don’t even know that this thing exists, but you say you have to protect it. Two, eternal life is just a myth. Three, why would vampires need a key to eternal life? They’re immortal already, right?’
‘Immortal, yes, but not invulnerable. This key would give them invulnerability too. And surely you understand how terrible that would be. Imagine a vampire without any weakness.’ I gulped, and nodded seriously. ‘And then, your other point. It could be a myth, yes. But you though vampires were a myth too, until you found you had been bitten. So perhaps you shouldn’t be so fast to discount the existence of this key.’
‘But the only proof you have of its existence is the writings, yes?’
‘Yes, and I will let you peruse those writings if you wish.’
Amber chimed in here, coming down to sit with some warmed up pizza. ‘Wrong. We also have my… abilities.’
‘What abilities?’ I asked, steadily getting more and more confused.
‘Amber is a medium, Andrew. She is in regular contact with a ghost who, like us, protects the university. He will warn her of anything bad happening, such as muggings and attacks happening on campus grounds. When she receives an alert of this kind, we must be quick to respond. Like secret agents, or –‘
He nodded with an amused smirk. ‘Pretty much, yes. But this ghost knows of the key. He will not tell us where it is, not unless he knows it is in danger of being found. He is of the belief that this key is too dangerous to be used.’
I shook my head. ‘No, look, I don’t think I can believe in mediums… I’ve already suspended my disbelief enough for today…’
‘But you see, Amber was told by the ghost of Katerina’s death. She sought out Rhiannon and Nicola, and the three of them summoned me, and the other people you see around us – all of Katerina’s closest friends and confidants. Amber made a plan. She would train us for battle, and for use as her agents, in the guise of being a fight choreographer. All our fees and such would be cancelled, and we would be awarded full scholarships along with living expenses. We would defend the university from the dangerous elements wishing to infiltrate it. We would start, once again, the club that she had been a member of when she was just a student, the club that was called the International Club for Historical Enlightenment, so that we could be the defenders the university. The first order of business was the vampire Ilya.’
‘Did you defeat him?’ I asked eagerly, terrified of the thought that another vampire might just be out there.
‘Yes,’ Ivan said, with a relieved smile. ‘We defeated him, after a long period of training.’
Dave sighed and stretched. The story had taken a while, and it was something the whole club already knew of. ‘So, anyway. Andrew? Considering the circumstances, we think you should join the club. You can learn the skills needed to defend yourself against the vampire, and any other threats to the university or yourself. You will get a full scholarship and everything else that comes with the club.’
‘There’s just one thing,’ I said, leaning forward, and scratching my chin. ‘I need to know more about this key. I can’t devote my life to defending it without understanding more about it. Can I have access to all the research and writings?’
Amber nodded, smiling gently. ‘Every member of the club is entitled to that. Although, the sources are cryptic and you may not find any new information… but you are welcome to try.’
I thought about it for a few moments. The eyes of the club members drifted away from me, as if trying to give me privacy. I considered it seriously. I would obviously have no money troubles for a long time if I chose this path. My life would be a lot safer with strong, capable friends like these. And besides, even if this key was really nothing, just a myth, then it didn’t matter. Because we defended innocent people from vampires, as well as petty human criminals. It was a vocation with real meaning to it.
And it was super secret. Like some kind of video game with ninjas and stuff.
‘Yeah. I’ll do it. I mean, how could I not? It’s a good deal.’
‘Thank goodness,’ Ashley rolled her eyes, but she looked relieved. Other members of the club also looked really relieved.
‘That’s great,’ Ivan said, and Dave clapped me on the back with one of his massive hands.
‘Awesome,’ Amber agreed. ‘Let’s get you sorted out then.’

Things finally resumed some normality. I went back to classes. I hung out with old friends occasionally, but I wasn’t desperate for company. I was doing all right in my grades, and I didn’t have to keep my part time job at the petrol station anymore. One thing I definitely didn’t do again was spend the night in the engineering building. After the sun went down, I would avoid that building like the plague.
Parts of my life had changed though. I joined the Club for Historical Re-enactments, since it was the front for the NICHE. I chose, for my persona, to be Titus Andronicus, Roman general and subject of perhaps the goriest play by Shakespeare. The other members of the club were very pleased. My persona meant that one day they would have to perhaps act out scenes from the play, and that would mean a lot of gory fun with lots of blood and guts. My costume was made by professional costume makers. I had wondered about the money involved in the club. It turned out that the money to fund the NICHE also went into making the Club’s front suitably flashy.
So I joined the NICHE as well. I was trained in fight choreography for the Society displays, and then in real fighting for NICHE missions. I wasn’t a fully fledged agent of justice just yet, so I was not sent on any missions, but I got to hear about missions taking place. Thefts were stopped. Muggings, attacks and rapes in the park were, most of time, counteracted in time.
And in all this time, Adrianna did not appear again. No doubt she found another pet or two to drink from. Amber reassured me that she was checking regularly with her ghostly contact, making sure that Adrianna wasn’t returning. Adrianna was still doing her post graduate degree, but the ghost had not seen her attack anyone, at least not on university grounds. Unfortunately, I learned, it was practically impossible for our helper ghost to leave university grounds, where he died. I wasn’t sure if I believed in the existence of this ghost. When I asked Amber about him, it turned out she had never even ­seen him. She could only hear him, and speak with him.
Time passed. A semester passed. Displays were rehearsed and put on. After the Battle of Maldon exhibition, the first display I was really involved in was the next scheduled one, a Japanese story of a ninja who dressed as a woman to assassinate two war chiefs. The next one was Titus Andronicus, at my request. We acted out a couple of the bloodiest scenes from that play, to the amazement and amusement of the spectators in the park when we performed it. The next one we were rehearsing for was a medieval style of tournament, where the guys had the chance to win the Queen’s favour and one seriously awesome sword by battling it out.
I got closer to the members of the NICHE. They were all good people, if not with their individual quirks. Anyone interested in dressing up in some strange persona is bound to be a little strange. Rhiannon was the Queen in the medieval court, and the one who I had to fight for to win her favour. I became a close friend of hers and was hoping she’d suffer from a little bit favouritism when it came to choosing the tournament winner. Her handmaiden in the tournament was Nicola. I was considering asking Nicola out, every now and again, but it was hard to have a private life at all in the NICHE. I just let it go.
And you might think that was strange. After all, I had been kicked out of my last apartment for my womanising ways. But Adrianna had changed me. I was a little bit scared of women after her. I hadn’t even kissed any girls since Adrianna. I hardly thought of sex at all, because it brought back terrible memories of being a little puppet for that swamp hag to use. I lived quite a monkish existence. But I got some physical outlet in the strenuous training I received during those months.
That was another thing that changed me. Karl, my engineering buddy, ran into me one time in the engineering building. ‘Whoa! Andrew!’ he cried out, shaking his head, smiling. ‘Where did those muscles come from?’
I glanced at the little bit of muscle showing just under my t-shirt sleeve. Humbly, I shrugged. ‘Sword fighting.’
‘Sword fighting?’ he repeated, awestruck. ‘Are you in that weird medieval group?’ I shrugged. ‘Ha,’ he said quietly. ‘Maybe it’s not so weird after all then.’
I was changing. Not having to worry about money helped that, and not really actively seeking out chicks definitely made a difference. I could give my full attention to first of all, my training, and second of all, my studies. But if I ever found myself bored with any of that, I turned to the sparse papers that made up the entire collection of the NICHE’s knowledge about “the key”. Old papers, some dated back to the start of the last century, were all collected in one box which, for now, sat in our apartment. I browsed through the materials. The key was a mysterious thing. It had been started in 1901 by an engineer, and picked up, every now and again, by other researchers who happened to find either it or the research about it. It could have gone back, even further than that, but 1901 was the first instance of the key appearing in this country.
From the readings I perused, I gathered one very important thing which no one else had been able to sum up. This key wasn’t some single thing. It was part of a much greater thing. It was almost as if it were literally a key, the kind of key that you started up something with, or a key to open something. Like a machine, or a vehicle, or a door. The key itself wasn’t the answer to immortality. The key was a way of getting there. Even if we found it, we’d have to find where to slot the key in before anything really interesting happened.

A few months after I’d first met the NICHE, we were having one of our regular parties. It was a dress up party. We were all in our costumes. It wasn’t the weekend, but it was Simon’s birthday, and he wanted to have a small party tonight because he was going away in the weekend. So there he was, in his pirate costume. Ashley was a ninja. Dave was King Henry VIII. Jane was a Viking. Ivan was Ivan the Terrible. Rhiannon was Boadicea and Nicola was Joan of Arc. I was, of course, a Roman general. There were lots of other people there too, a lot of whom I had only vaguely met, and a few others I‘d never seen before.
The party was going fine. I was getting to know a few people, and I was hitting it off with this one girl. But it was not to be.
I saw Amber head over to Ivan. She was wearing a witch costume. Right now she was looking very delicate and she had her hand on her forehead, looking as if she was about to faint.
While I stared at her, Ivan waved me over. I excused myself and walked over.
‘What’s wrong?’ I asked them.
‘Listen,’ Ivan bade me.
‘It’s Patrick... my ghost,’ she clarified when I gave her a quizzical look. ‘He’s seeing something going on in the park. A couple are about to be attacked by a group of four hooligans. No motive but sheer violence. We have to get there...’
Ivan snapped into action. ‘Andrew, you come.’ I was thrilled. It was my first real mission! ‘Dave,’ he signalled, tapping him on the broad shoulder. Dave nodded, needing no explanation. ‘Four people... one more...’ Ivan murmured. He grabbed Jane, who was closest to the door. She nodded quickly and joined the group.
The four of us walked down the apartment corridor swiftly and got in the lift. There was no time to change out of our costumes. The lift here was quite new, and fast. Ivan talked as it travelled down.
‘Okay. Amber and Pat have seen a group of hooligans in the park about to attack a couple. There’s four of them. The four of us should be enough to take them. Avoid using weapons unless they have any. Non-lethal force. We want to catch these guys and hand them into the police.’
The door opened and we set out, running. I had silver daggers strapped on me. The others had other weapons, but they wouldn’t use them. Hopefully.
We ran out of the building and slunk through the shadows and the gardens underneath windows. It was hard not to be seen, especially in the costumes we were wearing, but we were trained to be stealthy. The ground was cold and wet, and my feet were soon black with the dirt of the city, my roman sandals affording me little protection there. The sky was clear and my breath came out as white mist. Cape blowing out behind me, like a superhero, I ran in the midst of the quartet of NICHE agents.
We got closer and closer to the park. My breath was coming in to my chest with an awful, icy burn now. I was red in the face. Ivan held out his arm to signal us to slow down. We slipped in through one of the park gates.
There, across the park, illuminated by the dim, yellowish lights of the old-fashioned lampposts, was a group of people. A girl with light, shimmering hair running away, suddenly screaming. A guy standing ready to fight. Four figures in black hoodies running up to meet him. Two of them armed.
We set off again in formation, sticking to the pools of darkness in between the lampposts, moving around in the shade of the trees. We were trying not to draw the attention of anyone, and that included the victims, the attackers, and the growing group of spectators standing outside the gate closer to the attack.
I could hear the fight from here. The guy who had stayed to defend the running girl punched two of the hooligans. First he punched one in the jaw, and that one landed heavily in a heap, cracking his head against the pavement. The other came up to him, and the guy roundhouse kicked him to the head. He fell too, unconscious.
But then the awful crack of bone echoed through the still night as one of the remaining two hit him with a baseball bat. The other slashed at him with a machete. The security guard was coming for them now. They ran back towards the darkness.
Towards us. I felt the others beside me tense, ready to spring. The two killers were heading towards us, unknowing, only thinking to put as much distance between themselves and the authority figure as possible. ‘Disarm them,’ Ivan said under his breath. While in the light the two unconscious hooligans were arrested, we spread out in the shadows to catch the other two.
Jane and I were on the guy with the bat. I saw Jane grin and I heard her mutter the words, ‘Stand and deliver.’ As our guy stepped into our zone we leapt out at him, grabbing an arm each with all our force. Once the bat was out of his hands, Jane pushed a rag soaked with chloroform at his face. A few moments more, he struggled. Then, between us, he sagged. ‘Sweet,’ I breathed, wanting to laugh aloud. Jane grinned.
‘And that’s how we do it.’
We carried the slack body of the unconscious murderer over to where Ivan and Dave had the other kid. Laying them down in the dark, in the shadiest corner of the park, we took their hoods off. Just two kids our age, with shaved heads. Senseless violence. I think we all shared the same thought then. And we were too late, as well. That was too bad. They had probably killed that guy who stopped to defend his girlfriend.
‘Oh shit,’ Dave whispered.
‘What?’ Ivan breathed, sounding either worn out or fed up. He probably felt very bad that we were too late to save that guy.
Dave turned the heads of both the killers, so that their necks were exposed to us. ‘They were thralls.’
I touched my neck without thinking about it. The sight of those too-familiar bite marks upset me. ‘What? What do you mean? Thralls?’
Ivan rocked back and sat down on the sprawling root of one large tree. ‘Vampires can make thralls, by getting a human addicted to their bite. It very nearly happened to you, Andrew.’
I shook my head, feeling slightly panicked. ‘So... so what? What does this mean? Why would a vampire send out thralls to do violence?’
‘Perhaps to collect fresh blood? I don’t know,’ Ivan admitted. ‘We will interrogate these two when they wake. Let me do the talking. I will work out what they know by pretending to know more than we do. All right?’
‘Yeah,’ I agreed quickly. I could hardly think straight. Could I have truly been turned into a mindless zombie hell-bent on violence? Was I really that close to the point of no return? Jane patted me on the back as if she knew what was going through my head. I gave her a weak smile.
‘Come on. We can’t wake them out here,’ Dave reminded us. Ivan nodded. We all stood, taking our two culprits with us, slung between us, two to a body.
We walked up the shadows of the streets to a safe house of ours. Near the park, as part of the university’s property, was a building in which the Club for Historical Re-enactments was allowed to keep their props, sets and extra costumes, so long as they shared them with drama clubs and things like that if asked. Other clubs, like sports clubs, stored things there. It was also a soundproof place which was very hard to get into, and no one would be anywhere near it at this time of night. Ivan brought out his key ring, which contained a great many keys. But he knew them all by heart, and first time right, selected the correct key.
We headed into the dark storage building and left the lights off. Dave found a torch near the door, and that was all we used. We tied the two to chairs and Jane, with some relish, splashed their faces with cold water from a sink we found nearby.
When they found themselves restrained and surrounded by four hardly visible faces, the two thralls sneered, snarled like animals, and tried to wriggle out of their bonds.
‘Your master will be pleased with you two,’ Ivan said, crouching down to let them see his face. He had his Ivan the Terrible makeup on, with false beard, pale white face, and red rimmed eyes. He was a frightening spectacle even to the initiated. The snarling stopped for a moment as the two of them were faced with the horror. Then one of them got his courage back.
‘The mistress is always pleased with us. She will forgive our failure this time. She will bring us back.’ The mistress? I felt a terrible sense of foreboding...
Ivan shook his head. ‘No, no, I’m afraid this time you are going to the cops. What was the big idea, attacking two innocent people like that? Isn’t your blood enough for her?’
Insulting them subtly like that was a stroke of genius. The weaker of the two snarled and growled, ‘Adrianna loves us. She needs nothing more than us. But the guy had information she needed... and we were going to bring the little girl back as a present for her.’
Ivan stood up and I saw her light blue eyes turned to me. He considered my face for a moment, and then we all followed him as he walked a little way away from the thralls. ‘Just as I suspected. I am sure she is the only one present in this city at the moment. They tend to be territorial. If there was another one close by we would know it by all the grandstanding that would take place.’
‘So what do we do now?’ I asked.
‘We simply hand them in,’ Ivan said with a shrug. ‘Don’t worry. Adrianna won’t bother to rescue them. They’re trash.’
I stood alone as Ivan got his phone out of his royal robe pocket. The mention of Adrianna had chilled me. I didn’t want to hear that name ever again. It felt good to know that, by catching her thralls, we might be destroying a small part of her hold on this city. But I didn’t want anymore part in it. Let the others kill her. The memory of her, emerging naked from the bathroom, her face that of a hideous animal with teeth exposed... it was paralysing.
Ivan dialled a number and held the phone up to his ear. ‘Hello? Detective Julie, is that you?’
The voice was loud enough and the room quiet enough for us all to hear the tinny sound of her voice coming through the phone. ‘What is it, Ivan? I’ve got a busy night ahead of me. There was a murder in the park.’
‘I know. We’ve caught the two guys who did it. The ones that weren’t unconscious.’
‘Oh, you have? Excellent.’
‘But you have to be warned... they were working for a vampire.’
‘Crap. Really? Damn. Maybe you shouldn’t have caught them.’
‘I doubt she’ll break into the compound, honestly. They’re worthless.’ He told her where to find us.
‘Fine. I’ll come and pick them up. Under human law they’ll be charged with murder. But the person they think they killed is actually fine. I have him here with me now.’
‘Oh? That’s good then. I’m glad.’
Ivan hung up the phone. I looked at him, wild eyed. ‘What the hell, man?’
‘That was Detective Julie. She knows about us and how we work. She doesn’t ask questions.’
‘No, not that,’ I almost shouted. ‘The thing about the guy being fine. Then it’s not murder then, is it?’
Ivan chewed on his lip. ‘Look, there’s something about Julie that makes her the reason why we go to her. She’s unusual, like us. But her reason is, she’s one of a few... alternative citizens in the city. According to what she’s told me, she’s an android. And she’s in charge of covering up any crimes involving other androids in this city. The guy ‘killed’ tonight was presumably one of them. She has the core of his being – pretty much his soul, or like a hard drive, in her possession. But these guys are still going to be charged with murder.’
I didn’t care so much about that. What I did care about was this. ‘Wait, so... so they are like indestructible living beings, right? Immortal?’
Ivan considered me for a moment. ‘You’re thinking...’
‘I’m thinking they must have something to do with the key. They are practically immortal, yes? They can be killed, but something of them can be preserved and carry on, like... like if you were to take the hard drive out of one computer and put it in another? And they are considered living, right?’
Ivan nodded slowly. ‘I think you may be onto something. I don’t know Julie well enough to judge whether she’s like a living, feeling person, but... but I think you have something there. Perhaps she knows something about the key.’
‘Can I see her?’
‘Sure. Try and talk to her when she arrives, if she’s not too busy.’
We didn’t have long to wait before Detective Julie turned up with some of her men. She came to talk to Ivan. ‘Now look, you know the drill. This had nothing to do with you guys.’
‘Of course not,’ Ivan agreed.
‘Thanks for apprehending them. I am in your debt. Any favours you may need, I will happily help you out, so long as it’s not too dangerous or illegal.’
‘We do what we do for the good of the university, Detective. You do us enough favours by keeping our vigilante squad off the radar.’
She nodded briskly and began to walk away. I stopped her by calling out, ‘Detective!’
She spun around and looked down at me. She was taller than me, and wore a stern look on her red lips. ‘What is it, NICHE agent?’
‘Detective Julie, do you know what the key is?’
‘The key?’ she repeated. ‘The key to what?’
‘There’s a key that we are supposed to protect on the university. We have papers dealing with the key, old research and stuff. But the key is supposedly the key to immortality. I was wondering if you... you androids... had anything to do with it...’
Julie narrowed her eyes, and I thought she wasn’t going to answer me for a few moments. But then she relented. ‘You’ve got me thinking. There might be something in it. I’ll talk to a colleague of mine. I’ll get in touch with Ivan to talk to you if I come up with anything.’
Wow. I hadn’t expected that answer. ‘Thanks!’ I replied, amazed. She walked away, behind the officers who were dragging away the cuffed killers.
Ivan looked down at me. ‘That’s a pretty good answer, coming from Julie. Come on. Let’s get back to the party. It’s about time we headed back.’
He locked up the storage and we walked slowly back to the party. It was dead already. We had been a long time. Simon was gone, and only Amber, Rhiannon and Nicola were holding the fort for us. I didn’t stay up to talk to them about what happened. But I told Amber, quickly, before I hit the sack, about speaking to Julie, and how she thought she might know something about the key.
‘Andrew,’ she said, shaking her head. ‘I’m sure if Patrick doesn’t want to reveal it to us, then he’s doing it for our own good.’
‘And I’m sure it’s not so terrible, Amber. I need to know what I’m fighting for.’
She just shrugged. Wondering about the events of the night, and what was to come, I went to bed.

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