I apologize for the lack of posts this week! My desktop Internet is back up and running now, so things can get back to normal. To make up for the delay on Capacitance chapters this week AND to celebrate my finally finishing Inductance I am posting both Chapter 4 and Chapter 5! Enjoy!!
The morning of the meeting of all the students on the Campus Green, consciousness gradually trickled through the cells of Runey’s brain, and with this he became increasingly aware of a sense of something missing. Slowly, then all at once, the loss of Juleia bore down on him; the immediacy he missed her with was a physical pain as he remembered how most mornings she was there with him, wedged into his narrow dorm bed, encircled by his arms. This morning there was an uncomfortable space in his bed which his limbs were not used to stretching out into. After a few drinks with the Professor last night, his evening had been therapeutically fogged, but this morning he missed Juleia—and he had a headache. At the exact moment of the latter discovery, the sun pierced through the window which was divided into several randomly placed rectangular panes of colored and clear glass, sending rainbows of painful light into Runey’s deep blue—and right now rather bloodshot—eyes. Sighing, he dragged himself to a sitting position on the edge of the bed and once again became lost in thoughts of Juleia.
They had met during understudy school. Both were talented artists and were thus preparing for their eventual entry into the University College of Design. He had first encountered her at a party one Friday night and was intrigued by her witty, sarcastic humor and his ability to see through the hard exterior she presented when he looked into her soft brown eyes. Drunk and uninhibited, the pair had ended up in bed together that night. The next morning, Runey was already preparing several excuses and ways to avoid future encounters with her, but then she rolled toward him, the sunlight playing on her messy chocolate hair and tiny gold lip ring, and somehow she was suddenly a visceral part of his life from that moment on. Runey meshed with Juleia effortlessly; his innate sense of perceiving moods and feelings in other people was the perfect implementation for the deep moods of Juleia. She was prone to jealousy, sadness and irritability, but Runey knew how to navigate those deep waters and just how to temper her worst spells and tease out the elements he loved—her immense capacity to love, her devoted loyalty, and her wild imagination.
However, as a perceiver of people, Runey was also quite aware that he was less invested in Juleia than she was in him; he could truly see that she would find it hard to live a fulfilled life without him, as he provided a weight to her lofty dreamer’s character. Runey subconsciously knew, and was finding out in that present moment, that life without Juleia would leave a part of him injured, but would not render all of him broken. This realization had always set him a bit on edge about the relationship as a whole, but it was a train of thought that he stowed away in his ever-processing mind. There were too many exciting things happening being a student at the University, and he loved sharing them with Juleia—it was easy and comfortable to banter back and forth about new project ideas, what professors they liked and which they didn’t, anything and everything else. They always laughed together and dreamed together, and that was what he loved about her, so he locked away the chiding voice of criticism in his mind and took no notice of it day by day.
He wished the voice was there now; a sprig of doubt in his mind could blossom into a full state of acceptance of his new situation—helping him prepare mentally for this assignment he had been given. Runey knew why the Professor and other in the Restorationists had chosen him for this task. It was for the very reasons that he had such a successful relationship with Juleia; Runey was very perceptive of people—he always had been. He barely had to be in a room with a person for a minute before he could tell more about them than they ever would have guessed. Body language and an inexplicable intuitiveness could tell him if a person was stressed or sad, happy or distracted; it was a very useful tool in building relationships, but it could also be used for manipulation. Runey could not see this falling in love business as anything but a manipulation, but that didn’t soften his resolve that he could accomplish it. His determination in the face of a challenge was the second factor that had landed him the assignment. Fiercely competitive and extremely motivated, Runey was more likely to put his full effort behind something that was labeled “a challenge.” This was why he was so successful with Juleia—she was a complicated puzzle of a person, and Runey enjoyed finding out how the myriad pieces fit together.
Finally, there was the fact that he was very personable. He had been courted extensively by the College of Politics as he had a way of getting people to like him (mostly due to his great ability to read people). However, he had eschewed that idea firmly to stick with his passion for art—and to stick with Juleia. Yes, Runey thought as he finally got off the bed and made his way into his bathroom, it is pretty obvious why they chose me…people skills, dedication, determination. He understood the why, but he still did not like the implementation which required the severance of his tie with Juleia; frustrated and wanting to clear his mind, he stuck his head under the faucet of cold running water. Coming up for air, he grabbed a towel and examined in the mirror one last reason he had most likely been chosen; a strong, chiseled jaw line gave a masculine authority to his fine featured, handsome face—Juleia had often likened it to the faces seen on ancient statuary, such as Michelangelo’s David, a comparison which Runey felt was quite excessive. However, surmounted by a messy crop of auburn hair and deep, brooding blue eyes, Runey’s face was admittedly one that would make many girls fall in love with him on its own merits. Runey was sure Mara from Science would not be so easily swayed, but nonetheless he was certain the Professor and others had taken his looks into consideration when choosing their man for the assignment.
For the first time that morning, he thought not about Juleia but about Mara from Science—the girl he was supposed to fall in love with. It sounded absurd in Runey’s mind, like some sort of twisted fairytale, or archaic arranged marriage. However, he could definitely see the benefit; day after day he walked through campus and looked up on the tall hill at the imposing Science building and wondered just what it was that they were all doing up there. The other members of the Restorationists maintained a fairly good idea of what went on, but they could never be entirely sure. Whatever this Mara from Science was working on, it must be something with a potentially sinister bent, or the assignment would not be such a high priority. It was a challenge, and Runey felt the tentacles of curiosity weave through his mind and latch on to the cause—he wanted to find out, he would make it his life to find out since he didn’t have Juleia to ride comfortably through the motions with anymore.
The thoughts continued to ebb and flow through his mind as he walked out of the Design compound, its arched entry tunnel of the same rectangular colored glass as his dorm room windows swirling above him like a flurry of butterflies. He was the only one walking out; he had intentionally left late so that he would run no chance of meeting Juleia. He had sent a message to some of their mutual girl friends late last night telling them they needed to make sure she got to the meeting on time this morning—he knew Juleia well enough to know that the events of last night were enough to send her spiraling into a period of despondency that could see her not leave her room for days, regardless of her other obligations. Thus, he strolled out of Design and over the path towards Campus Green a mere five minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin, the curiosity and thrill of the challenge thrumming through his efficient brain and beginning to drown out the low resonant ache of losing Juleia. He once again considered Mara from Science, but found all the as-yet unknowns too overwhelming for him to process. At least he knew one thing, and he was grateful for it—when they gave him this assignment to fall in love with a stranger, at least the stranger was remarkably good looking. Chuckling and smiling his rueful crooked smile to himself, Runey slid on his sunglasses and continued on to the Campus Green, and his next love, Mara from Science.
Campus Green was a sprawl of human movement as all the students from all the different colleges milled about and crammed into the common quadrangle. Although unintentional, the colleges had inadvertently separated themselves into their four respective groups as friends and classmates mingled amongst one another, making small talk under the ease of familiarity. So far, the assimilation of all the groups was not coming naturally. None of it was coming naturally for Mara as she stood under the dappled shade of an enormous oak, out of the way of the early fall sun which was gradually becoming too hot. It was ten past nine (she kept sliding her slim silver phone in and out of her pocket, compulsively checking the time), and as the remainder of the students packed onto the green, the noise level spiked with jocularity. In the center of the crush was a platform; the crowd suddenly parted way and a group of professors took this makeshift stage and stood above the large group. Mara saw Beliz and four other professors she did not know, and assumed they were from other colleges. She was delighted to see her favorite professor, Professor Travers, on the stage as well; a gentleman of indistinguishable age, his face was only slightly lined in a way that did not mar but rather enhanced its strong features—best of all were his warm brown eyes which would light up with interest and pride whenever Mara spoke of new ideas with him. They had spent many long hours together in her lab or in his faculty suite of lab and office; Mara allowed him a rare sentiment that was more than that of a professional colleague—she thought of him as the father she had never truly known.
Many students in the College of Science, unlike the rest of the students and population in general, were selected at a young age upon showing exceptional promise in the field of Science and then removed to live amongst one another and assume a life entirely devoted to training—Mara was one of these students. Now, seeing Travers on the stage, Mara had a brief flash of a vague and fuzzy memory, frayed around the edges, flit through her mind. She remembered the warm cinnamon smell of cookies baking, and a strong voice reading to her from a story book. The memory was gone as soon as it came, and left Mara with no feeling; she had long since accepted that she had once had a family, but they were no longer important. Her work was all she needed; any sentimentality she attributed to Travers was a topic she considered superfluous and vaguely embarrassing. However, it was still nice to see him up on the stage today. He would understand her annoyance at this interruption to work—especially once she told him the newest and most pressing of her discoveries. For the past week, she had been trying to arrange a private meeting with him, but he had been busy and rather obscure as to what was occupying his time. As recently as last night she had tried to set up a meeting and her message had been bluntly ignored. She felt slightly mollified seeing him on stage now—he must have been too busy to reply due to business with this meeting today.
One of the professors began to speak—a woman Mara did not know. She was very tall with a figure that could best be described as sharp. Her black hair was cut short and this added to the overall severe impression she made as she began in a loud voice with a razor’s edge, “Hello everyone, thank you for being here today. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Miranda Hall—head of the University Board of Directors. Today is a milestone in the history of the University, and I, as well as the rest of the faculty, board and surely you students, am very excited to see what this collaboration will bring. I will keep this short as it will take quite some time to gather into your new groups. In a few minutes, you will be receiving a message on your phones with the names of the other three members of your group as well as a location somewhere on campus. Once you receive the message, go to the location you have been sent. This is where you will meet your fellow group members. More information about the project will be messaged to you once everyone has dispersed.” With a brisk nod, Miranda Hall turned and gave the floor over to a professor from Design who began to speak of his excitement for the collaboration and to give an overview of the aims and philosophy of the College of Design.
Mara could see that the remainder of the speakers’ words on stage were going to be wasted on their intended recipients, as students all around whipped out their phones almost in unison and were trained to the messages application in high anticipation of finding out their new assignment. Mara got out her phone as well and covertly accessed some of her research files and did some remote checks of some lab tests she was running back in the Science compound. Time passed quickly as she scrolled through her personal files; out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of Beliz gesticulating colorfully on the stage and speaking fervently about her passion for the new project. Mara chuckled to herself as she noticed some of the students from other colleges had been distracted from their phones by the shocking neon orange pantsuit Beliz had chosen to wear for the occasion. Soon, she noticed around her students were starting to slowly thin off the green. Then Mara’s messages made an almost inaudible ping and buzz. She flipped through to messages, and touched to open the new arrival which read:
Group 407: Vance, 674309, Politics
Elba, 554981, Technology
Runey, 912768, Design
Report to Studio 76, Design Block A
The location assignment was linked in the message, so when Mara tapped the words on the display, a map of the University appeared complete with a glowing green marker denoting her current location. The way to Studio 76, Design Block A was highlighted on the map. Mara began to follow the route assigned, realizing this would be the first time she had ever ventured to the Design compound. She wondered if other groups got to meet in Science, and suffered an absurd qualm that someone might be assigned to her lab. You’re the only one who knows the lock code, Mara, don’t be ridiculous…she thought, flicking the errant thought out of her mind. The highlighted route on her phone screen led her diagonally across the Campus Green towards the Design compound. Whereas the Science building was up on a high precipice, the Design compound was recessed, and the area was entered by walking through a sloping half tunnel with rainbow blocks of glass on one side that seemed to be suspended in mid-air instead of continuing down to the other side of the walkway. At the bottom of the hill was a large glittering lake, surrounded by a lush green on which Mara could see several student groups of four were already gathered, meeting for the first time.
Design Block A, as the name would suggest, turned out to be the first of four multi-level buildings which were flowing constructions of pale red brick and more of the multi-colored glass like in the entrance tunnel. Mara approached Block A and pushed open the heavy glass door, checking her phone as she entered; as expected the screen on the phone automatically zoomed in and switched from a map of the entire campus to a detailed map of just Design Block A, and the highlighted route now traversed through hallways and floors, showing Mara where to go. As far as Mara could tell, the room numbering system in the building made no logical sense as room 76 appeared to be in the basement of the building; instead of leading her up the inviting spiral staircase of thick sheets of colored glass suspended in the foyer, the route suggested she needed to go down the hall and then descend a flight of much less fanciful stairs with utilitarian well-used rubber treads and a metal handrail which felt disturbingly sticky to the touch.
Wiping her hand disgustedly on the new blue silk of her tunic, Mara felt a fresh wave of annoyance as she arrived in front of Room 76; pushing open the door, she entered a very cluttered, very dirty space. Well worn hardwood and a distinct layer of dust covered the floor; shelves along the wall were absolutely crammed with papers, pencils and various other drawing supplies; easels stood at arbitrary positions throughout the room, sheathed in paint-stained sheets; light wooden chairs and tables were arranged at haphazard angles to one another. Despite all this clutter of stuff, the room was devoid of the key elements Mara expected to find in it—namely Vance from Politics, Elba from Tech, and Runey from Design. She tapped back through the messages on her phone to double check her location, and rolled her eyes when she saw that she was indeed in the right place, yet she was expected to work with idiots who couldn’t even get to a meeting expeditiously and on time.
Bestowed with the professional habit of being habitually early, Mara selected a moderately clean rag from the wide assortment splayed on the floor and tables, and gingerly brushed off one of the wooden chairs. Sitting down, she deposited her leather briefcase on the dirty floor—cringing internally—and once again pulled up her lab files on her phone to pass the time waiting for her already most unimpressive group partners. She did not have to wait overly long; five minutes of work on her phone had not elapsed before the creaky, dark wood door opened slowly and ushered a very small girl into the room. Standing at a height that would rival the brevity of even Professor Beliz’s form, Elba from Technology entered the room timidly. Her pale skin and eyes made her seem smaller than she already was; her hair hung down nearly to her hips in a long, neat, white-blond braid and the worn gray satchel she carried over her shoulder was nearly as large as she was. “Hi,” she ventured timidly, in a voice that was just as small and pure as her physical appearance, “You must be Mara. I’m Elba, first year Technology.” Jostling the immense bag to her other shoulder, she held out her hand and Mara slipped her phone away to a pocket and returned the gesture of greeting with a guarded smile.
“Nice to meet you, Elba. Do you have any idea how long this is supposed to take today?” Mara asked, not caring if her question came off as rude—she had seen something in her mobile lab results that warranted immediate looking into; labbing down late into the night looked like all-too-likely possibility.
With effort, Elba heaved her gray satchel onto one of the long wooden tables where it landed with a heavy thud. Mara supposed it was full of computer equipment, and began to muse briefly on how lucky it was that Technology students could carry their computers—essentially the equivalent of her lab—around with them everywhere. Her straying thoughts were interrupted by Elba’s answering her question, “Well, there was a command on the server last night prompting pre-generated emails to be sent out to all students at two different times. I’m assuming the first email was the one with directions to here, and the second is scheduled to arrive in…” she trailed off as she checked the time on her phone, “Five minutes. I don’t have a clue what the second message is about; my friends and I couldn’t get that far into the system…although we tried,” she said, raising her light eyebrows conspiratorially at the last, and then developing a rosy blush on her pale face when Mara simply eyed her dismissively, not eager to take part in the gossip of the computer hacking world.
“Well hopefully our partners make it here soon, then, so we can make quick progress once we get the next message,” Mara clipped, glancing again at the door. Elba only nodded back, still blushing from Mara’s none-too-warm reception.
At that moment, the door burst open and the increasingly awkward silence was filled with a loud, rich voice, “Hello, hello! I am so sorry for being late; I should have been here much sooner, but I got caught up talking to so many people on the way over,” his straight white teeth glowed against his dark warm skin with a smile that reached his almost black eyes. “However, I must be ok, because I see I’m not the last one to arrive. That makes me feel a little bit better, at least! Let me introduce myself, then. I’m Vance; and as you probably already know, I am representing the Politics portion of our little group. It’s so exciting to finally get to meet you, what a great opportunity!” He held out his hand first towards Mara.
“Mara, Science, first year,” she said with a genuine smile; not immune to the charm of Politics students, she found Vance instantly compelling and likeable.
“Mara, very nice to meet you; I don’t know much about what we will be working on as a team, but I am sure you as a Science student will be a truly valuable asset,” he shook her hand with a firm, practiced grip and moved on to Elba.
While Vance was greeting Elba (and once again making her blush), the door creaked on its hinges to allow the final member of their group into the room. Vance and Elba had quickly lapsed into a conversation—carried on mostly by the former—so it was Mara who first noticed the very tall young man with a striking slim, yet muscular, figure saunter in through the door. Runey from Design had a golden olive complexion that was incongruous to his deep red hair which was straight, kept a bit longish towards the front and messy. Mara, being only human, could not help but note the strong jaw line and deep marine blue of his eyes. He carried himself with a comfortable assurance, and unabashedly met Mara’s stare, and—she could clearly tell—made his own visual appraisal of her. In the few seconds since his entry, Mara had decided she didn’t like him. She was one to take note of good looks, but not one to be swayed by them (otherwise her encounter with Langdon in the elevator would have gone quite differently), and Runey’s casual demeanor which he demonstrated by being quite late to this meeting coupled with his unapologetic manner upon finally showing up, did not sit well with Mara’s constant adherence to her tasks and overall professionalism.
Runey seemed to have garnered quite the opposite impression of Mara, because, after his unchecked visual sweep of her body, he grinned widely and stepped towards her, “Hey, you must be Mara; nice to meet you! I’m Runey.”
Noting the lack of apology for being late, Mara remained blank-faced and shook Runey’s hand without bothering to stand up from her chair. “How did you know my name already?” she asked him.
“Watered silk tunic perfectly matched to leather leggings—all custom tailored. Designer bag. Hair which I am sure feels just as much like silk to the touch as it looks to the eyes. All around flawless. The way you look has ‘Science Student’ written all over it,” Runey said, clearly enjoying Mara’s growing consternation. He then leaned towards her conspiratorially and whispered, “Plus the other guy is literally talking her ear off. Bet he hasn’t stopped talking since he came in, right? And the other girl is pale as the moon and is sitting right by a giant computer bag—a bag which is made out of canvas, not vachetta leather, see?” Runey’s face was now very close to Mara’s as he said this, and she got the vague impression he was trying to flirt with her, but moreover she noticed distinctly that Elba and Vance had stopped talking and were looking at Mara and Runey with curiosity.
“Do you guys know each other?” laughed Vance as he strode over to greet Runey, shaking his hand and adding in a back clap in an apparent gesture of masculine bonhomie.
“Well, we do now,” Runey said, flicking a sly half-smile at Mara (who just stared back inscrutably), and then turning to Vance and returning a back clap as if the two had known each other for ages rather than a few minutes. “And you must be Elba,” he said, giving the Technology student a very warm smile and shaking her hand quickly.
“You must be pretty familiar with our meeting place, Runey, since this is your college,” Vance said as the four assembled themselves in the light wooden chairs at one of the long tables (Runey did not sit beside Mara, which initially relieved her until it became apparent that his position directly across from her made looking at him unavoidable).
“Yeah, I’ve spent lots of time down here,” Runey replied, “A lot of time in this very room, actually. This is where general art classes are held. First year students, like me, have to take a bunch of general art classes—like sculpture, painting, drawing, drafting. Gets us a feel and a familiarity with all aspects of design. Next year we get to start specializing more. I want to do drafting; it’s more like technical drawing than, say, doing a painting. Now my…uh, friend, she,” Runey tripped up awkwardly, then quickly said, “Well I am getting off topic. Not to mention stealing the spotlight. We haven’t gotten any further instructions on what we are supposed to do today, have we?”
Elba piped up, “No, but we are supposed to get some literally any minute now,” as she once again referred to the clock on her phone.
“Excellent,” Vance said, “I am very curious as to what the purpose of this all is. However, it is great just getting to mee—” he was cut off by the eerily simultaneous buzzing and dinging of all four of their phones.
“Guess we are about to find out,” Runey said, with an easy half-smile on which Mara found herself spending entirely too much time trying to decide if she found it charming or nauseating.