Chapter 20: Eavesdropping
...... Kip had been up very late the night before, so it took two stimuli to rouse him: the beep of his wrist watch alarm which he'd set to ring a half hour before the school wake-up chime, and Paradox jumping none too gently off his face at the sound of the beep. Kip managed to drag himself out of bed and quietly, so as not to wake the others, went to his desk. There he word processed Alex's hand written petition in sixteen point Times Roman. He made two versions, differing only in the name of the school. Then, still in his pajamas, he took the memory stick onto which he'd copied his document and padded to the dorm's common room where there was a common use computer and laser printer. He printed out a copy of the ESAP version and, because Amdexter had a lot more kids, five copies of the Amdexter version. Then he tacked the ESAP copy on the common room bulletin board.
...... ...... Emergency!!!! Please sign this petition.
We the boys of ESAP do strongly oppose any changes to our carousel. Particularly we oppose removing any horses and putting up a fence to keep people from falling off.
...... He saw that he'd printed 32 lines of Name.
But ESAP only had 31 kids. Paul would no doubt point that fact out to him. He
glanced at his watch. Late! He ran back to his subdorm. If I'd been
thinking I'd have gotten dressed first.
...... The others had already gone. Kip dressed, grabbed his book bag, and went to his computer to turn it off. He'd left the word processor active. He giggled as he glanced at the screen.
...... Meow Kip,
...... Heisenberg meow meow meow meow.
...... Meow meow,
...... Schrodinger's meow
...... Me. ow. -- Meow Meow! meow Paradox meow meow.
...... Dear Kip
...... Heisenberg might have been here.
...... Yours truly,-
...... Schrodinger's cat
...... P.s. -- Say Meow! to Paradox for me.
...... Paul's work, no doubt. Kip didn't think
Wolfgang had the imagination. Kip powered down the computer and gave Paradox
a quick pat; the cat had returned to Kip's upper bunk. Then, with rolled up
copies of the Amdexter petition in his hand, Kip ran off to Founders for breakfast.
...... Paul, Wolfgang and Alex were already there. With a quick hello, Kip plopped his book bag on the bench, dropped the petition copies down in front of Alex, and ran off to the food tables. He snagged some bottom scrapings of scrambled eggs and a few shards of bacon, then returned to the table.
...... "Meow!" said Paul.
...... During breakfast, Kip, Paul, and Wolfgang drifted into a discussion of Schrödinger's Cat Paradox. Kip thought that the cat, the box, and the person opening the box to check on the cat, must be a single quantum system.
...... "Call me Heisenberg," said Paul. "But I'm not certain I know what you mean."
...... "Me neither," said Wolfgang. "Not exactly."
...... "Well, I'm certain I don't know what you mean," said Alex.
...... After Kip tried to explain, they walked from breakfast to the assembly. With arms linked as they walked, they chanted "We are Paradox. We are the cat!" Alex neither linked nor chanted.
...... "Veritas et Scientia," the headmaster
entoned, signaling the start of the assembly.
...... "Veritas and Scientia," came the solid, if unenthusiastic, response.
...... "Those of you who were at Amdexter last year," the headmaster began, "have doubtless noticed that we don't start assemblies with our school song any more. This is out of consideration for boys in our sister school. They should not have to sing our Amdexter song."
...... A few boos came from the Amdexter boys. The headmaster took no notice. "But now that a month has gone by since the start of term, I realize we are being unfair to our ESAP brothers."
...... A muffled call of APES came from the general area of Todd and his friends.
...... "No ape's my brother," Kip heard Todd say in a loud whisper.
...... The headmaster went on. "The ESAP boys have two assemblies they must attend: ours and also an afternoon assembly at their own school." He paused. "This need not be. Accordingly, from tomorrow on, this morning assembly is an Amdexter assembly." He chuckled, then looked out on the grey shorts. "So you ESAP boys will be able to sleep-in a little." He returned his attention to the assembly at large. "Anything concerning both schools will be posted on the main Founders Hall bulletin board, and anything truly important will also be e-mailed to you." He turned to the browns, then spread his hands as if offering a benediction. "I look forward to again starting the morning with the sounds of happy voices singing Amdexter Triumphans."
...... Yes! Kip made a fist of victory in his lap. More sleep! But then he grimaced. For some indefinable reason, the headmaster's announcement had left a bad taste in his mouth.
...... "....Then, in the summer of 326 B.C.
Alexander secretly, with a small part of his army, crossed the Hydaspes and
managed to draw the cavalry away from the main army and particularly, their
war elephants." Mr. Thomas described the battle against the Persian Empire's
King Porus. "And so," Mr. Thomas went on, "Alexander was free
to continue his conquest of India--a part of it, that is. He had no idea how
big India was." He threw a glance to Alex. "But the victory at the
Hydaspes river came at a high personal cost to Alexander. Bucephalus, the horse
he'd ridden into battle with for twenty years, died of his wounds."
...... Alex started, almost as if he'd been hit. Then his eyes showed great sadness.
...... Mr. Thomas talked more about Alexander's exploits and finally his death, some three years after the death of his horse. "And this finishes our roughly one month study of Alexander the Great and his time, the so called Classical Period of Greece." Then, in a concluding overview, Mr. Thomas lectured about Greek philosophy and art. "And as for Greek science..." He went on to describe Aristarchchus's revelation that the Earth was round and revolved around the Sun, and how Thales way back in 585 B.C. predicted an eclipse of the Sun. And he told about Anaxagoras realizing that the light of the moon was just the reflection of the Sun's light. He talked about Archimedes and Pythagoras and Hippocrates. Kip was astonished how much time Mr. Thomas spent on science. Despite being a teacher at Amdexter, the man really seemed to like science.
...... "So one could say that for the Greeks of the classical period," Mr. Thomas continued, "science was more in the nature of philosophy. In fact, I think the old term for physics was natural philosophy, Perhaps one of our ESAP boys could tell me for sure."
...... "Yes, sir," said Kip. "Dr. Ralph told us that."
...... "Ah, good."
...... Just then, out of the blue, Todd said. "Could you tell us about Greek Fire?"
...... "What?" Mr. Thomas swiveled his gaze from Kip to Todd. He cleared his voice and said, "Well. Greek Fire isn't exactly on topic. It was developed about, I don't know, a thousand years after Alexander the Great's time--during the Byzantine empire."
...... "Yeah, but what is it?" Todd insisted.
...... Mr. Thomas smiled and gave a hint of a shrug. "It was a weapon used mainly in naval battles. Liquid fire. It's formula was a secret--and still is."
...... "Was it like gasoline?" said one of the boys.
...... "Could have been. But some say it burst into flame when it hit the water." Mr. Thomas then forced the discussion back on topic and kept it there until the bell rang.
...... In the hallway, after Mr. Thomas's class, Kip saw Woodchuck scurrying around, accosting kids to get their signatures. After each of his classes, Kip saw Woodchuck gathering signatures.
...... Curious how his own petition was fairing, Kip stopped in at his dorm's common room on route to the ESAP assembly. Standing in front of the petition, he scowled. There were only two signatures. At the assembly, he'd have to actually ask kids to sign it.
...... "....so, all of you," Kip concluded,
"go to the common room and sign the petition." Just then, Dr. Ralph
walked into Snack Bar.
...... "What's this about a petition?"
...... "It's about the carousel."
...... "Ah." As Dr. Ralph came forward, Kip darted to a seat.
...... "Do you know about the carousel, sir?" said one of the kids.
...... "I do." Dr. Ralph looked angry. "And I have a meeting with the headmaster to talk about it."
...... "When, please?" said Kip.
...... "Today!" Dr. Ralph narrowed his eyes. "At four thirty. Why?"
...... "Oh,"--Kip shrugged and attempted to look innocent--"just curious."
...... When school let out that afternoon, Kip shanghaied Wolfgang to be a lookout while he'd try to eavesdrop at the back window of Founders--the window of the headmaster's office.
...... "I'm not sure this is such a great idea," said Wolfgang as he and Kip, with hands in pockets, ambled casually around to the back of Founders.
...... "Aren't you curious what's really going on with the carousel?" said Kip.
...... "Well, yeah," said Wolfgang, "but this could get us into real--"
...... "Shh." Kip pressed himself against the wall and pointed up to the window. The weather was warm for late September and the screened window was open about ten centimeters.
...... "If someone catches us," Wolfgang whispered, "we're toast."
...... "Go to the corner of the building and keep watch," Kip whispered. "And whistle, or bark like a dog or something, if you see anyone coming." He looked up the fifteen or so centimeters to the window's sill and listened. "It's Dr. Ralph." He paused. "And I hear Dr. Linda, too."
...... Wolfgang nodded and then padded off.
...... Kip, trying to merge with the brickwork, heard furniture being moved--chairs probably, followed by the two school heads exchanging pleasantries--although it sounded more formal that pleasant. And then Dr. Ralph said, "I would have thought I'd have been informed of any plans for alterations to the carousel--and certainly before workmen came here to start carrying them out."
...... "You didn't know?" said the headmaster. "I rather thought it was your idea."
...... "Mine?" said Dr. Ralph. "I didn't know anything about it."
...... "Interesting," said the headmaster in a voice so low, Kip could hardly hear it. "I must assume then, that the Science Advisory Board had thought you'd be ecstatic over the idea, and contacted me first. I am, after all, the headmaster of the senior school in our little partnership." He paused. "I assure you, I am most emphatically not in favor of the idea. But there is not much I can do about it. The Board controls the purse-strings." There came another pause. "The Board pays Amdexter full tuition for every boy in the ESAP program. And I'm afraid it's not as easy for us to enroll new students as it used to be."
...... "I imagine not," said Dr. Linda, "in this recession."
...... "I am curious though," the headmaster went on. "What do your boys think about the prospect of fewer horses. I'd think they'd be for it."
...... "I don't think they are. In fact, they've been holding after bedtime meetings about it."
...... "Outside their dorms, I imagine."
...... "I'm afraid so," said Dr. Ralph. "I'm sorry."
...... "Oh, it's against the rules, of course," said the headmaster. Kip was surprised how not angry his voice sounded. "It's a regulation, of course. But within limits, we can choose to ignore it."
...... "Boys will be boys, you mean," said Dr. Linda.
...... "Oh, we constrain them to a room built with walls of regulations," said the headmaster, "rubber walls against which they can run and fight without doing themselves injury."
...... "That's a refreshingly informed approach," said Dr. Linda. "I must admit, I'm surprised."
...... "Pueri pueri, pueri puerilia tractant," said the headmaster with a chuckle. "Children are children. Children do childish things."
...... Why does he keep babbling in Latin?
...... Kip heard the movement of chairs and then the headmaster's voice. "In any case, as long as the boys are back before the 11:30 bed check, I wouldn't come down too hard on them."
...... Now that's useful info. Kip filed it away for future use. 11:30 bed check.
...... "We keep a rather light reign on our boys," said Dr. Ralph, "There's a fair degree of self-governance at ESAP--so that the kids' concepts of physics won't be overly influenced by adults--adult physicists, that is."
...... "There is a saying, Omnes deteriores sumus licentia--Too much freedom debases us."
...... Kip rolled his eyes.
...... "Oh, I'm not sure I agree with that," said Dr. Linda.
...... "By the way," said the headmaster after some more sounds of shuffling furniture, "do you know the result of the boys' nocturnal carousel deliberations?"
...... "They've started a petition drive," said Dr. Ralph, "opposing the alteration of the carousel."
...... There came a pause where Kip couldn't hear anything. Then the headmaster said, "It might not be a bad idea. A strong feeling against, especially from your school, might give us some traction with the board."
...... Kip nodded. Even the headmaster thought the idea of a petition was a good one. Kip began to tune out. Despite the feeling of excitement from doing something dangerous, he was getting bored. He lowered to a crouch, preparing to move to safer ground.
...... He heard Dr. Linda's sparking laugh and reflexively focused on it.
...... "Kids and physicists," said Dr. Linda. "You can often tell the difference by height."
...... "Very funny," said Dr. Ralph. "But take Kip Campbell for example."--Kip snapped alert and slowly rose from his crouch--"He's already developed the beginnings of an entirely new way of thinking about quantum mechanics. I don't know if it will turn out to be fruitful, but I have a feeling it will." Dr. Ralph paused. "It's funny though. As far as imaginative ideas, he's adventurous and fearless, but as far as his physical safety is concerned, he's rather timid."
...... Kip lowered his eyes. He had to admit Dr. Ralph was right; he was a coward. How did he find out?
...... "It's not all that surprising," said the headmaster. "A kind of compensation. He's the sandy-haired boy with the cowlick, isn't he?"
...... "That's him," said Dr. Ralph. "At any rate, Kip is a treasure to be cultivated. Perhaps, in some respect, he is a genius."
...... Kip felt himself blush. He was glad Wolfgang couldn't hear this. Again, he crouched and turned to leave--but before he'd taken a single step away, he jumped, startled by a ringing phone.
...... Curiosity peaked, he stayed to listen. He heard the headmaster pick up the receiver.
...... "Is he all right?" said the headmaster. "Good. I'll be right out. Ask the officer to wait until I get there."
...... Officer? Kip wrinkled his nose. I wonder what that's about.
...... "Please excuse me for a moment," came the headmaster's voice. "It should just take a minute or two."
...... Kip heard the door open and close. He hoped that Drs. Linda and Ralph would talk more about him, but they didn't. Kip listened as they talked about nothing and he began to get bored again. Then he heard the door open and close again.
...... "We had a boy run away from school," came the headmaster's voice. "Fortunately, he's been found and returned."
...... "Is he all right?" said Dr. Linda, concern in her voice.
...... "Mainly, the boy is hungry, He had no idea how far the school was from civilization."
...... "Poor kid," said Dr. Linda.
...... Kip wondered if he knew the kid.
...... "We'll shovel some food in him," said the headmaster, "and then he and I will talk. It was bullying, of course, a common reason boys run away." Kip heard a chair moving back and then footsteps toward the window. Kip dropped down and pressed himself hard against the brickwork. His nose grazed the surface and he inhaled the subtle tart fragrance of the ancient stone.
...... "How sad," said Dr. Ralph. "Leaving home, just to be bullied at school."
...... The footsteps retreated.
...... Kip heard a sigh.
...... "Some of them are bullied at home as well," said the Headmaster. "In fact, we have two boys here, a third-former and his forth form brother. They were sent here to protect them from their father. The man, it seems, regularly beat them."
...... "That's horrible," said Dr, Linda.
...... Todd! It's got to be Todd and Dwayne. Kip had heard enough--and with the headmaster pacing, it was becoming unsafe. Wait 'til I tell Alex. Quietly, he padded over to where Wolfgang stood guard.
...... "Hear anything interesting?" said Wolfgang.