Eva watched as Mr. Peeks reach over and take up a decanter of scotch and two glasses from the shelf behind his desk.

"Scotch?" he asked simply, already pouring his own.

"No... no thank you, Sir," Eva shook her head slightly.

The golden liquid swirled in his glass as he poured, and when it filled half-way, he capped the decanter and left it beside him. In a heavy movement, he then took the rim to his lips and drank most of it in one big glug. Eva did not know if he meant to slam the glass on his desk so hard, but she jumped in her seat in any case, surprised at how Mr. Peeks could seem so frightening.

She was so nervous that Eva couldn't help wring her hands. Her breathing was shaky, but she tried to mask it by taking only small inhalations at a time. As it is, she didn't really want Mr. Peeks to know of her anxiety, she wanted to exude confidence and the belief that she didn't do anything wrong. Of course Eva knew that she had breached certain rules and regulations, which were strictly applied to all students of this Institute, and thus dreaded the very possible idea of expulsion. Valerie had just been in, and had told her in passing that she hadn't been expelled or suspended and is to resume her education normally. This gave Eva some hope, but considering she had done far worse purposely than what Valerie had by mistake, her overall outlook wasn't so bright.

Mr. Peeks had made Eva wait a full thirty-minutes after Valerie's departure before she was called into his office. Upon entering, she discovered that Mr. Peeks wasn't alone and indeed found two others in the room. Professor Thorne, who was reclined on the green, leather sofa on the northern wall, balanced a glass of scotch on his knee and smiled at her as she had entered. Eva politely smiled back. A plasma screen also hung from the ceiling a short distance away from Mr. Peeks' desk, and was supported by a thick black bar and a red wire that ran along it. A stern-looking woman was displayed, and she followed Eva's movements with beady eyes. Her cruel bun, pursed lips and her furrowed brow kept Eva from looking twice at the screen.

So far, the woman had said nothing, and Mr. Peeks was too much in his own world to bother with introductions. Eva had been sitting there in front of the Head representative for five minutes now, waiting for the cruel interrogation to begin. She suspected that Mr. Peeks' present lack of words was a way of weakening her defensive, coerce her into admitting fault no doubt. Eva hated to think that his tactic was working, and so she concentrated on formulating an excuse rather than worry about her ability to hide the truth.

I was bored, Eva thought flippantly. It was true enough, she had encountered boredom and indeed it probably helped catalyse her misbehaviour, but Eva was inclined to think that Mr. Peeks would hardly forgive her for that reason alone. She considered telling him that she was just watching the comeback, just like he had done on the other side of the Repair room. She would have to think of a reason for why Thorne's student had said what he said, why he had insinuated her part in the re-Systeming. That would be difficult. Besides, it wasn't like the guy had been completely innocent in all of this, indeed he was the one who persuaded her to cut the links. He deserved to be punished as well, if not for his actions but for allowing her to do what she did. He should have stopped her rather than encourage her.

"Miss White, I'm sure you are aware of why we called you in here," Mr. Peeks started, entwining his fingers in front of him.

"No, I don't actually," she lied, hoping that her expression was one of innocence.

Mr. Peeks was a thin looking man in his forties. He did not appear frail or weak however, but rather sturdy and stiff. Mr. Peeks, whose first name remained a mystery, was also abnormally prone to sweating, as was demonstrated by his present change of shirt. His balding scalp no longer shined with perspiration. He now assessed her under heavy lids and thick, black glasses.

"Well, we have recently reviewed your details, or your file as it were."

So this was an interrogation, Eva realized gloomily. Mr. Peeks stretched his arms over to his left and pulled out one of the manila folders from the moderately-sized pile on his desk. He opened the folder in front of him and scanned the face documents before resting his eyes back on her, again entwining his fingers. She didn't say anything.

"It seems that you, Miss White, are indeed a very good student. Your attendance record is without fault, considering the norm absences of first-years. And your marks are exceptional, no doubt indicative of your accelerated intellect. In our Institute, approximately thirty percent of first-years will not continue through to second, simply because they are unable to keep up with the work. But you don't seem to have this problem, do you Miss White?"

"No, Sir," Eva said slowly, confused.

He was asking the wrong questions, not to mention that he was also hugely off topic. Mr. Peeks didn't say anything further, but smiled and prompted her to continue talking with a deep nod.

"Uh, well I enjoy what I do. Learning is practically a full-time hobby," Eva began, adjusting herself in her seat so that she didn't feel so uncomfortable, "I've always had a fascination with what I didn't know, what I did not understand. And I guess I've always persevered to comprehend. Indeed, I am constantly distracted with the work that is given me or with what I set out to do. Just ask Professor Lindemann. That, Sir, is probably the reason for my apparently inexplicable attendance record. I have no life but for this Institute."

It seemed reasonable to believe that Mr. Peeks probably wanted her to convince him as to why he shouldn't expel her, and thus she executed her over-sentimental monologue with all the confidence she could muster. Although what she had said was mostly true, it wasn't at all that glorious as she made it out to be. Eva didn't have a life outside this Institute - whilst the other students were out drinking and rubbing themselves against one another other at sleazy bars or sickeningly retro clubs, she was in the library, in the laboratory, or at her apartment, studying for the Stats exam in three weeks. Valerie often teased her for her less than lively existence and was always inviting her to go out places. Eva always found an excuse not to go. As it is, she didn't see the appeal of drinking until one couldn't formulate a sentence, nor did she think that hooking up with random drunks was particularly smart. Note that Valerie did not share her opinions.

"Lindemann has been temporarily dismissed, until the end of the teaching semester that is. But tell me, Miss White, what are your thoughts on the current Computer and Technology program? Please, don't be too gracious, we have been contemplating a reprogramming for a long while and so your criticisms are welcomed."

Eva was not sure of what to say. Her instinctive words were something along the lines of terribly vague and appallingly unstructured, but she knew Mr. Peeks meant for constructive criticism. She wasn't sure if she was allowed to deride the intelligence of the program's Head Lecturer, but since Lindemann was out of the picture, at least for a while, it seemed possible to snub him now without affecting her marks too drastically.

"I think that the program is... a little...," Eva croaked out, casting her eyes to the floor, "messy."

Eva dared a glance at Mr. Peeks when he said nothing in return. His gaze remained on her, calm and steady, waiting for her to say more.

"With respect to subject matter, Lindemann taught in no particular order. Very rarely did he make links between different topics, and if the link happened to an important one, he merely made a vague connection rather than delve deeper. His explanations were also segmented and superficial.

Because of the complexity of the technology we have at hand, I think it's important that first-years are taught with more vigour and structure, as it were. If we are to be skilful in the control and manipulation of the System, as is a prerequisite for graduation, one needs to consider the educative capabilities of the Institute's... teachers."

Eva gulped the last word. Her throat was dry. She was done for, expulsion was a reality. Eva hadn't meant to sound so insulting, but for some strange reason it felt good to have said it, expulsion or no. Her mind had just suddenly reeled with frustration – frustration for having to try and follow Lindemann's lectures, for having to find some sort of order in its material, spending hours painstakingly sifting through all the unintelligible information he had regurgitated, and just recently having to go through two hours in the hot and sticky Repair room and watch every incapable person they could find try and fix the problem he and Valerie had caused – and her well-meant criticisms turned into a rant.

"And what do you advise we do?" Mr. Peeks said with no emotion.

"Lindemann's reassignment would be my only advice, but since you've already dismissed him, Sir, I believe your reprogramming has already started," Eva concluded.

Eva certainly felt appeased by the knowledge of Lindemann's dismissal.

"Ha ha!" Mr. Peeks bursted out, leaning back in his chair with a large grin on his face.

"Sir?" Eva whispered almost, not sure of what was going on.

Mr. Peaks cleared his throat, his eyes beaming at her from behind his glasses.

"Miss White, you remind me of someone I know, someone very gifted. That is why I called you in here. Your impressive show just before brought you to my attention, and I realize now that we have only skimmed the surface of your capabilities. As it is, it is very rare for someone so early in their education to be so incredibly intelligible and committed to their work. Indeed, it is the responsibility of the Institute to provide for its students in every aspect of their learning, and since you are exceptionally bright, I have a proposal for you. Have you heard of our X course?

Eva felt two things – surprised and confused.

"Note that enrolment into this particular course is extremely competitive. Many fourth and some of the better third years apply ceaselessly throughout the year, though only perhaps six of the hundred or so will be accepted a year. These learning advantages are not given out so willy-nilly, mind you."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Peaks. I'm very confused," Eva stopped him, furrowing her brows, "What is X?"

"Oh, it's simple really. You will choose a professor or a number with whom you would like to work with, depending on your area of interest of course. Note that you are not restricted to apply within the Immunobiology department, feel free to apply in Astro or Cyro departments or whatever your tastes, but in the end you will be under the guidance of one professor and one professor only. He or she will be your tutor, and from them you will gain additional knowledge and skills beyond that of your fellow students. I only bring this course to your attention as I believe you are one who can cope the workload."

There was a long pause after this, wherein Eva gazed at Mr. Peeks for a long while and even turned around to assess Professor Thorne, who was also calm and smiling pleasantly at her.

"So, I am not to be expelled?" Eva asked, still unsure.

"Good heavens, no. It is a loss to us if you are gone," Mr. Peeks said, pouring himself another drink, "Scotch?"

Eva's chest swelled as she inhaled, breathing in her relief. Her hands fell limp on her lap, all the tension in her muscles dissipated at once, and indeed she felt an overwhelming serenity.

"Yes, I will have another!" Professor Thorne said, getting up and striding over towards them.

He placed his glass on Mr. Peeks desk. Eva smelt his strong cologne wafting around her, and she tried not to wrinkle her nose.

"You know, Miss White, I am very interested in taking you up. You should make an appointment to come and inspect my laboratory yourself, it is on fifth," Thorne said, obviously proud of that fact.

Eva appraised him. His stringently pressed lab coat was certainly notable and his black shoes were appropriately shiny. Like many professors, his appearance was clean-cut, and that was so far a good thing. Eva recalled however that this man was the one who was supposed put the System back on order, save the day as it were, and he didn't. Mr. Peeks almost promised Thorne's success, but the professor's failure to recognise Y-functionality defunct clearly demonstrated his ineptness. Perhaps Thorne would have eventually figured it out in the end, given that Eva hadn't been so impatient and he had more time.

"I'll consider it," Eva said nicely, concealing her doubts over his prospect as her X tutor.

"I'll have a package sent out to your address describing the finer details of the course. Now, Miss White, it is your responsibility to secure a tutor, and for most students this can become quite gruelling at times. With your outstanding credentials, however, I'm sure you will have next to no difficulty in that respect," Mr. Peeks said, gulping another glass of scotch.

Taking that as a dismissal, Eva stood up.

"Thank you, Mr. Peeks," Eva said, to which he reciprocated with a nod.

Eva made towards the door quickly, suddenly excited. She couldn't believe that her enrolment remained, and the idea of spending more of her time at this Institute, learning from her tutor late into the night and until the early mornings, delighted her even more so. Her hand on the doorknob, she glanced over her shoulder – Mr. Peaks was watching her, his eyes gleaming, and Professor Thorne held up his glass, undoubtedly fooling himself into believing that she had already agreed to be his X pupil. Eva also stole a glance at the plasma, but the scary woman was not to be found for the screen was blank. Eva was unperturbed by this.

"Thank you, again," Eva sang, exiting the room in high spirits.

Freddie drifted on the fringe of sleep – his mind continued to lapse into the surreal world of dreams but often something would make him break back into the reality, like a tiny explosion from one of his experiments, a raised voice in the hallway, or in this case Professor Bolger flying into his laboratory.

"Good morning!" Bolger bellowed, walking up to Freddie's desk and placing a hot cup of coffee near him, "I have news."

Bolger took a sip of his own brew, and waited until Freddie lifted his head from the table before speaking again.

"As of today, I am the new Head Lecturer of the Computer and Tech class," Bolger beamed, mostly to himself.

Freddie didn't really comprehend what Bolger was saying, he was still groggy with sleep. He ran his fingers through his dark, brown hair and leaned back against his seat, trying to wake himself up. In the last couple of weeks Freddie had fallen asleep in front of his computer. He had been working late into the nights, his laboratory illuminated only by his small, uninteresting desk lamp and computer monitor, hoping to make significant progress in his project by the end of the year. His was nervous about the Proposals, and if he didn't deliver, funding may be restricted.

"You're the what now?" Freddie mumbled as he brought the coffee to his chest, hovering over the aroma that filtered through the holes in the coffee-cup lid.

"You look terrible, you know that? How many hours did you get this time?"

Freddie winced as he tried to process Bolger's questions, his head hurt for lying on the hard surface of his desk for some of the night.

"What's the... um, the time?" Freddie asked, taking a sip of his coffee.

The hot, creamy liquid burned the back of the throat, but it tasted delicious nonetheless. He could feel the heat travel down his oesophagus and into his stomach, and he felt a warmness rippling through him. He took another sip.

"Seven thirty on the dot," Bolger said, glancing at his wrist watch.

Four hours, Freddie approximated. This was his usual sleeping period for most of the last couple of months, only sometimes did he allow himself five hours or more and that was simply because nothing had awoken him. He was a light sleeper nowadays, and this was attributable to the Proposals. Perhaps nerves kept his sleep cycles to one or two at most, he didn't doubt it, but his body had yet to accustom to the restricted hours of sleep, even though it had been three months. This his annoyed him.

"Eight hours," Freddie muttered, almost inaudibly

Bolger looked incredulous but didn't take the matter further. He went around to the head of Freddie's desk and attempted to look grand by resting one of his hands on the collar of his lab coat, stretching his neck so that his head was higher than normal, and uncharacteristically donning a serious expression. Freddie almost laughed.

"I am the new Head Lecturer of the Computer and Tech class," Bolger announced as if there was a stadium full of people to hear him, rather than just Freddie.

There was a long pause.

"Have you been practising that?" Freddie asked after a while, blowing into his coffee to cool it down a bit.

Freddie had heard of Lindeman's dismissal a few days ago, the day after the recent System mess, and indeed wasn't really surprised by it. Lindeman had made one too many mistakes in the past year with respect to letting his students run rampant on restricted technology, and Mr. Peeks had let him off with two warnings. Freddie did not doubt that Lindeman was somehow involved again, and so he really wasn't shocked or overjoyed as other staff and students had been, respectively of course.

Freddie was surprised, however, that Bolger had been appointed Lindeman's replacement. Bolger was smart in his own right, even more so than Lindeman, and excelled at a number of subjects, his forte being Probability. But computers, raw hardware and the like, or even the relatively uncomplicated motherboard tended to be a challenge for his friend.

Not too long ago, when Freddie was in his second year and when Bolger had yet to be promoted to the all-glorifying fifth level, there had been a problem with the single Infrared radiology machine in the department. This happened during an end-of-semester practical assessment, and Freddie remembered it well. The tech-guys were elsewhere, occupied by a recent bout of hacker attacks, and so there was no one to aid this repair job. Bolger was struggling, and was quite stubborn when the students offered him help. Bolger had fiddled with a few buttons, yelled at the machine a couple of times, unscrewed a few bolts to which he replaced immediately when the machine started whirring abnormally, and in the end collapsed in a chair nearby and allowed someone else to have a go. Some of the braver students attempted to fix it but without success. At the time Freddie was standing at the back of the laboratory, arms crossed over his chest and a smirk on his lips. He was somewhat amused by the vast incompetence around him.

"Why are you smiling, Mr. Thorne? Either you are responsible for this problem, which is not far from the imagination, or perhaps you think this whole thing is funny? As it is, I see nothing comedic about this," Bolger had huffed, standing up and crossing his arms, mimicking Freddie so as to challenge him.

"It's a bit funny," Freddie had said simply, and the rest of the students stopped and turned to gape at him.

No one questioned the professors, every student took the verbal abuse without complaint – that was the Institute's unwritten law. The room stood still but for Freddie who shrugged from the back wall and walked swiftly up to Bolger. Bolger and Freddie eyed each other for a moment, note that they were both about the same height. As an attempt to look more intimidating, Bolger straightened up rigidly, trying to look taller. Bolger was seriously infuriated, his set jaw and deeply furrowed brow were evidence.

"May I borrow this?" Freddie smiled, artfully pulling the screwdriver from Bolger's coat pocket.

Freddie turned away from his then professor and unscrewed the backing case of the machine. Everyone remained quiet and recoiled to the corners of the lab. Bolger remained beside Freddie, making annoyed sighs and aggravated grunts.

"Sometimes the permanent wires break down when the machines are overworked, where there is an almost constant electrical energy output" Freddie said as he worked, not really caring who listened, "See the wires in this model are made of copper, which although makes for good conductivity, the substance is also highly deformable. The plastic casings are also a problem, made from an old-age plasticiser no doubt. I suspect an upgrade soon.

"Thanks," Freddie said, returning the screwdriver to Bolger's pocket and pulling out a small square of an electrical board.

This board was attached to the machine via two wires, coloured yellow and red. Freddie flipped it over to assess the circuit map and the attachments.

"The red is faulty, see for yourself," Freddie held it up to Bolger, who hesitated for a moment before looking.

"What do you need?" Bolger sighed.

"Do I get an A?" Freddie asked coolly, to which Bolger responded with a slight nod, "then I'll need a wire, preferably thirty centimetres in length, a wire cutter and a soldering iron."

Bolger had ordered three students to get these things, and when they were supplied Freddie got to work. First he cut the red wire as close as possible to the circuit board so as to minimize copper overflow, and then he detangled the other end from the connector plug that linked it to the analyser. The new wire was already encased in a black plastic. He made a small incision at both ends and peeled the plastic back to expose the copper. Bolger handed him the iron. Freddie soldered the new copper wire to the board, taking care to minimize the area of melted metal. He waited a moment until he was sure the wire was firmly attached before continuing, during which time the room was silent and undoubtedly tense.

After this, Freddie then attached the other end of the wire to the connector plug by twisting it into the appropriate holes. He manoeuvred the circuit board so that it clicked back into the machine. He hooked the yellow and the new wires into their appropriate space and replaced the backing case.

"Would you do the honours?" Freddie said, stepping back and gesturing for Bolger to do up the screws.

Bolger screwed up the backing case promptly, and everyone braced themselves for when he switched the Infrared machine back on. The machine whirred to life, the sound was overwhelmingly calm, like the hum of fluorescent lighting. Bolger took up a sample and reference cuvette from one of the student stations and inserted them into the detector. He directed the machine to take readings using the linked computer system. A graph with two peaks appeared on the monitor. And that was the end of that, Bolger had never again tried to pick a fight with Freddie. Even back then he was intimidating, despite his student-status.

"You haven't been listening to a word I'm saying, have you?" Freddie heard Bolger saying and snapped out of his short-lived reverie.

Freddie leaned forward and placed his coffee on his desk, propping his elbows up on the table and entwining his hands.

"Congratulations, Bolger," Freddie said as warmly as he could, then furrowed his brow, "you do realize that you know nothing about computers."

"Noted and understood, but that's where you come in," Bolger leaned into Freddie, his eyes blazing with enthusiasm, "you are to be my Associate Lecturer. Of course you will not be giving the lectures yourself, for Mr. Peaks and I agreed that you would likely sabotage the student's learning for your own amusement rather than selflessly lecture for rest of the year without event, but you will help prepare the lecture materials and take up the practical classes."

"What?" Freddie said, indeed perturbed.

He didn't want to waste any time on teaching, his heart was in his research. He was also on a deadline, and he hated to admit that he was behind.

"Now, Fredster, do you really want to make the Head angry? You're lucky, I signed up so you wouldn't have to lecture four times a week. You can just watch the students for an hour or two whilst they connect circuit boards and generate a few meaningless stats."

"I don't have time," Freddie said dismissively, as if there was to be no more argument.

Freddie reactivated his computer by pressing a few keys and maximized the genetic code he was working on. He needed to consider variance in nucleic condons if he was to generate a broad spectrum immune-initiating substance. As it is, there are many subtypes of the same protein. He would have to ask Bolger to help with assessing population variability, and to indeed narrow down the most common receptor subtypes. Freddie decided not to, well, not right now.

"Well, see you later then," Bolger sighed heavily, and when the silence between them loomed he stalked towards the door.

Freddie didn't watch him leave, he was angry, irrationally so. But he was a professor after all, and he was obliged to teach, among other things. Freddie cringed – there was nothing worse than trying to explain something to people who have not the capacity to take it in. He was resolute in his decision, he wasn't going to take on a class in which students didn't work or were too stupid to understand, even if this meant making Mr. Peaks seethe.

Freddie heard the door close softly. In all probability, he would apologize to Bolger later, if not for his lack of cooperation but because Freddie needed his friend's input. With a while until lunch, Freddie opted to launch straight into his work. He opened the draw beside him and was relieved to find two Rollo bars and a pack of jellybeans, this would be enough to get him through the anticipated five hours of uninterrupted research with the exception of maybe one or two bathroom breaks. Freddie stretched his arms and sipped his coffee before he started typing.