Chapter 2: The Dean
Gryphon University, Jibson River.
The dean of the College of Mathematical and Physical Sciences looked out of the wide windows facing the courtyard and frowned. Orientation Week was progressing more or less as usual, with the new students getting lost and the old students getting drunk, and vice-versa. What was currently displeasing him was a trebuchet in the middle of the courtyard aimed towards his window. The previous four shots had fallen short of the mark, but they were getting closer. The last one had just missed the garden at the base of the building.
“Higgins!” he said, his deep voice reverberating around the room. “Are you sure they have figured out all the bugs in their design?”
On the other side of the desk, a small wiry man in a grey suit spoke with a soft squeak.
“Y- Yes, sir. They’ve added another two textbooks to the counterweight and moved the sling back a foot. Its trajectory should be right for you. Are you absolutely sure this is necessary?”
The dean turned around and glared.
“Of course it’s necessary! Are you sure they don’t suspect a thing?”
Higgins trembled, the dean’s booming voice stretching his nerves, already tightened from the stress of student orientation, closer to breaking point. Just until Friday, then back to the library he mentally repeated to himself.
“I- I’m sure, s-sir. H-Harold is eager f-for whatever marks he c-can get. He’s, uh, he’s o-one of our m-most loyal students.”
The dean turned back to the window and scoffed.
“Bah, I still say you can’t trust any of them. These textbooks – they are the Winston’s, are they?”
“Fourth or Fifth edition?”
Higgins consulted his clipboard.
“F-Fourth editions, sir.”
The dean smirked at this.
“Good. The Fifth editions would have carried the roof. Ah, now look! They’re preparing to fire.”
The crowd of students in the courtyard stood back. One of them raised his hand above his head, held it for a moment, and dropped it down in a swift motion. Another student, watching him, released the counterweight. It dropped slowly, and, through the principles of levers, transferred kinetic energy to the lettuce in the sling. As it reached the peak of its motion, the sling released, sending its projectile on a graceful arc towards the window.
As it passed over the flowerbeds, five sensors detected it, triangulated its position, calculated its velocity and acceleration, and from this extrapolated a trajectory. This was sent to a missile launcher concealed in the pipes hanging under the roof. This fired at the lettuce, destroying it in a small explosion. A set of lasers build into the brickwork around the window took care of the remaining shreds. The total time elapsed from detection to destruction was 0.13 seconds.
The dean roared with laughter, while Higgins quaked, his hands over his ears. Outside, the crowd of students was dispersing, as a light rain started to fall. The dean turned around.
“Now! What was it you wanted?”
“I-It’s about that n-new p-p-professor w-we’ve been t-trying to c-contact. H-He’s in a s-small town c-called Hidden V-Valley, in w-western Halcyon.”
“Ah, yes. What was his name again? Tybalt, Terence, something along those lines. And? Did you tell him he was no longer needed here?”
“Y-Yes sir. H-He s-seemed more d-disappointed t-than anything, s-sir. I, uh, I t-tried to explain the s-situation, b-but he d-didn’t want to hear it.”
“Good! Nice to know there are no hard feelings then! Can’t abide hard feelings! Was there anything else you wanted, Higgins?”
“Off you go then. Oh, and Higgins!”
Higgins froze, and slowly shuffled around again.
“Go and get someone to clean up the lettuce from the path, will you? Can’t have the place look untidy!”
“Of c-course, s-sir.”
The dean turned back to the window as Higgins left the room, and lit a cigar as the defence system took care of a rock thrown in his direction. Smoking wasn’t permitted indoors, but no-one had complained to him.
Odd fellow, that Higgins, he thought to himself. Can’t be healthy, spending all your time among books. He needs to get out in nature more. I know! I’ll organise a hiking trip next teaching break. A bit of fresh air is just what the staff needs.
At this the dean chuckled and sat down, his chair creaking under the weight. Pity about that doctor, he thought, leaning back, but I won’t be having any of that in my College. Don’t know why he’d choose such an unnatural way of living, but he’s just going to have to live with the consequences, and I have no choice but to deal out those consequences when they are to be dealt out. Taking a final drag on his cigar before stubbing it out, the dean turned on his computer, and with the muffled sound of the rain outside punctuated with occasional explosions, reviewed the remaining applicants for the professorship.
Since we're in a new city this time, how about a look around?
Most of the business in this city takes place on the southern shore.
It lights up quite nicely at night, don't you think?
The business district extends a bit further to the east. In this area a few residential towers can be found as well.
And, of course, the night time shot.