Chapter 15: Some ability with locks
...... When the wake up chime sounded through subdorm-8 on Monday morning, Paradox jumped off of Kip's face. Kip sat and was about to climb down from his upper bunk when his clock radio clicked on. He'd been adjusting it for over a week to make it turn on during the chime. Kip sat listening for a moment, then flopped back onto his mattress. The cat came back and rested beside Kip's head. Kip moved a hand to hug it to him.
...... "Don't you feel well?" asked Paul who was sitting across on his upper bunk.
...... "That's Beethoven's eighth symphony," said Kip, staring at the ceiling.
...... "What?" said Paul, his nose scrunched.
...... "It's his Beethoven rule," came Wolfgang's voice from below.
...... Paul climbed down the ladder from his bunk and looked up at Kip. "You're going to be like late for breakfast."
...... "Not very late," said Kip. "It's already the third movement." He leaned over the edge. "Could you guys get breakfast for me?"
...... "I'm sorry," said Paul. "I don't do breakfast in bed."
...... "I mean put it on your trays."
...... Paul and Wolfgang agreed and Kip lay back to enjoy the music.
...... At the symphony's final note, Kip sprang to the floor, dressed quickly, grabbed his pre-packed bookbag, made a bathroom stop, and then headed out across the Dalambertian. As he padded toward the refectory, he ran into Alex.
...... "Are you a Beethoven fan, too?" said Kip.
...... "I mean, you're late for breakfast."
...... Alex flashed a bewildered look and then held up a file folder. "I needed to finish these certificates--without Todd or Martin seeing me." He slowed and opened the folder for Kip to see.
...... Wolfgang's certificate was on top, and it was stunning: a staff with an eagle sitting on it, a thunderbolt in brilliant yellow outlined in black, and old-English lettering in a rich blue.
...... "That's Zeus's scepter," said Alex.
...... "This.... This is fantastic. Beautiful!"
...... Alex beamed. "Thanks," he said, shyly. "But don't let Todd or Martin see them. Theirs are only in black and white and don't have the eagle."
...... They continued on to the refectory, and into grey-shorts territory. Kip saw that his friends had indeed picked up breakfast for him so, taking custody of Alex's folder, he went directly to his seat while Alex went to the food tables.
...... While Alex was off loading up his tray, Kip and co. talked about the two-slit experiment, hardly pausing for hellos when Alex came with his tray. There was a spot for Alex at Kip's table; Alex took all his meals now with subdom-8.
...... "Okay," said Alex as he sat. "You guys talk about this all the time." He turned to Kip. "So, tell me. What's going on? What are the electrons doing at these two slits of yours?"
...... "I can't talk about it," said Kip.
...... Alex looked hurt. "You mean you're not allowed to?"
...... "No," said Kip. "I don't have the words. It's like Korzybski says. The map is not the territory."
...... "Quantum mechanics is the territory and the words we use to describe it is the map. And it's a lousy map." Kip tried to explain it more and then said, "Do you see what I'm trying to say?"
...... Alex chuckled. "So, it's like an alien comes to Earth from the planet Zorgon. And this alien knows quantum mechanics but English has no words to describe it. Something like that?"
...... Kip chuckled as well. "Yes, something like that."
...... Alex went on. "So imagine that the Zorgonians have this machine that they can hook to your head. It'll teach you Zorgonian, but it'll wipe out your knowledge of English. And now you'll understand quantum mechanics, but you won't be able to tell what you know to anyone on Earth. Would you let them use their machine on you?"
...... Kip, Paul and Wolfgang debated the pros and cons for awhile. Then Wolfgang said, "If things work out, we won't need Zorgon. ESAP could give us that language."
...... "I hope you don't forget human language, though," said Alex.
...... Wolfgang chuckled. "We won't."
...... Alex's expression grew serious. "But...but I hope you won't forget how to be human, either."
...... Kip looked at him with narrowed eyes. "What do you mean?"
...... "I mean...." Alex laughed. "I don't have the words." He broke his gaze away from Kip. "Oh." He reached for his folder. "I almost forgot about these." He opened the folder and spread out the Dark Riders certificates.
...... "Wow!" said Paul. "This is, like, terrific!"
...... Just then Kip, looking over Alex's shoulder, saw Dr. Ralph get up from his seat at the masters' table and head their way. "Uh, oh." He realized that they'd been very noisy at their table. "Keep it down," he whispered. "Dr. Ralph's coming."
...... "Don't be a scaredy cat," said Paul. "We weren't that noisy."
...... Internally, Kip winced; he hated people thinking he was afraid--especially since very often, he was.
...... Alex slipped the certificates back in the folder.
...... Dr. Ralph stopped at their table. "May I join you?"
...... "Why? Are we coming apart?" said Paul. "I mean, yes, sure." He slid in to make room.
...... Dr. Ralph sat. "Nick was lucky," he said without preamble. "He could have been seriously injured."
...... "Yes, sir," said Wolfgang. "We know."
...... Dr. Ralph smiled. "The carousel can indeed be dangerous to young physicists." He looked hard at the three of subdorm-8 and Kip felt himself wilt; Dr. Ralph probably knew of their unauthorized use of the carousel.
...... "I'm afraid I'll have to do something about keeping the carousel safe," Dr. Ralph went on.
...... Now, Kip was relatively sure Dr. Ralph knew.
...... Dr. Ralph turned to Wolfgang. "I understand," he said, in an undecipherable tone of voice, "that you have some ability with locks."
...... Wolfgang visibly squirmed. "Well, I... I mean--"
...... "I have some ability in that area as well. It's something of a tradition with physicists."
...... Kip felt his eyes widen.
...... "So," Dr. Ralph went on, "I don't feel I can legitimately discourage your...abilities." He stood. "But, don't do anything you know is wrong, or you may get in serious trouble."
...... At this point, there was no doubt. Kip was sure Dr. Ralph knew.
...... Dr. Ralph widened his gaze to take in Kip and Paul, as well as Wolfgang. "Do you understand my meaning?"
...... "Yes, sir," said Kip and co., virtually in unison.
...... "Good." Dr. Ralph strode back to the masters' table.
...... Wolfgang watched him go, then said at a whisper "He knows."
...... "Yeah," said Kip. "He must have been the person we heard coming."
...... "I guess that's it," said Paul, "We can't use the carousel again."
...... "No," said Wolfgang. "I bet he's changed the combination. I think he was just challenging me to crack it. And if I do, my reward is that we can use the carousel--until he changes it again."
...... "Come on," said Paul. "I don't think that was his meaning."
...... Wolfgang didn't seem to hear. "After lunch," he said, "I'm going to the Carousel to see if the combination's been changed. I'm sure he's changed it."
...... "I don't think he did know it was us," said Alex. "Or at least he's not sure. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been pussyfooting."
...... "How could he be sure," said Kip. "He's a quantum physicist."
...... Wolfgang giggled.
...... "What is that supposed to mean?" said Alex.
...... "He means the Uncertainty Principle," said Paul. "And I don't mean the school principal."
...... "I like that," said Wolfgang. "The uncertainty school principal."
...... "Let's go," said Paul. "We'll be late for Assembly." He glanced at Kip. "I don't think your Beethoven rule applies there."
...... Kip and the others gobbled down the remnants of their breakfasts and hurried away.
...... Some four hours later, they reconvened
at the same table for lunch. Afterwards, Wolfgang stood and said he was going
to the carousel to check on the lock. Without comment, Kip and Paul went with
him; it had become a routine that whenever a boy of subdorm-8 went outside,
they went two or three together--so there wouldn't be any bullying by Todd or
...... "I'll come, too," said Alex. "I have a sugar packet for Bucephalus."
...... Kip was about to laugh, but didn't as he saw that Alex didn't seem to be joking. Kip tried to keep concern out of his voice. "Yeah. Fine. Let's go."
...... At the carousel, Wolfgang, Kip and Paul went to the control box while Alex attended to his horse.
...... After wriggling his fingers like a pianist before a concert, Wolfgang started punching numbers on the keypad.
...... Just a couple of seconds later, there came a click from the cabinet.
...... "Hey," said Wolfgang, wrinkling his nose. "He didn't change the combination." He turned to the others. "I would have sworn that he'd have changed it" Idly, he pulled open the door. "Maybe he just didn't get around to doing it yet." He started to close the door again, but froze. "Dirty dog!"
...... "What's the matter?" said Paul.
...... Wolfgang pointed to the hook on the inside of the door. "The key. It's gone."
...... "He didn't have to change the combination," said Kip. "He just took the key."
...... "Yeah." Then Wolfgang smiled. "If that's the way he wants to play. Fine! After school, I'm going to see if Dr. Linda will give me a hairpin. And then I'll go to the school shop and grind it into a lock pick. I remember that key. Only four tumblers. Should be a simple lock to pick."
...... "I'm not sure that's a great idea," said Kip. "What if she tells Dr. Ralph? Won't he guess what you want it for?"
...... Wolfgang pursed his lips. "Maybe," he said after a few seconds. "But I really think he's challenging me." He balled a fist. "I don't think he really believes I can pick locks."
...... "Why is it, like, so important to you?" said Paul.
...... "It just is."