The Trojan Carousel
Chapter 1: Kip and Co.
..... Kevin took a deep breath and pushed
open the door.
.....At first, Kip tried to not enjoy himself,
worrying that he might be too old to be riding a carousel. But then he
observed that most of the other riders also wore green blazers and grey
shorts–the uniform of the Feynman Elementary School for Advanced
Physics. And that meant that they too were about twelve years old.
.....He looked out at the ancient brick buildings
of the other school as they swished by. With no one going in or out, the
Amdexter School looked dead. Kip knew that in the morning their boys would
arrive. But for now, in the afternoon sun, the buildings looked menacing
and abandoned–and silent. The calliope music made the entire outside
world go silent, like watching TV with the vacuum cleaner running–images
.....As his horse moved him in the direction
of his own school, Kip leaned into the turn, pretending that it was he
rather than the carousel directing his mount. The Feynman School: a small
classroom building, a dormitory, and an observatory-planetarium complex,
was brand new–imitation ancient brick.
.....At the next revolution, Kip looked down
at the people, parents mostly, many of whom carried grey ESAP information
packets. They talked with each other and with school officials, and held
plastic cups of wine and munched on cheese and little sandwiches. At the
same time, Kip smelled kid-food: hot dogs and mustard, and fries and ketchup–dinner
for the boys since the Amdexter refectory wouldn't open until breakfast.
.....One hundred and eighty degrees later,
Kip looked out at the Amdexter playing fields: a flat, boring nothingness,
a treeless meadow without even cows. Kip slapped the wooden rump of his
horse, urging him to gallop faster. But he didn't. Instead, his horse
slowed, and then stopped.
.....Kip helped himself at the boys' food
table then, overflowing paper plate in hand and fingers slippery from
potato chip grease, he sought out his parents. He found them talking to
someone official-looking. Alongside his parents were another man and woman
with a kid in tow. The kid wore the same school uniform as did Kip.
.....As Kip drew close, he heard the official
type say, "...obvious that these ESAP kids are so far ahead of their
grade level in math and science that the idea of teaching to the syllabus
is ridiculous." Kip moved in between his mom and dad, and the man
looked at him with a friendly smile.
....."This is my son, Kip." Professor
Campbell put an arm around his son. "And," he said, gently urging
his son forward, "this is Dr. Hopcroft, the chief...teacher of your
.....Dr. Hopcroft chuckled as he shook hands.
"But my wife is also Dr. Hopcroft. Better to call me just Dr. Ralph,
or for that matter, just Ralph."
....."Yes, sir." Kip felt awkward,
as he usually did when adults, especially his parents, were conversing
with other adults and doubly so when the adults wore jackets. Dr. Ralph
was wearing a jacket but even though it fit, it looked as if it didn't.
It was unbuttoned, showing a white shirt with a ballpoint and some file
cards in its pocket. Dr. Ralph was thin and long and his shirt was even
longer; the cuffs peeked out from the ends of the jacket sleeves.
.....Dr. Ralph extended an arm toward the
other kid, a blond boy who wore glasses. "This is Wolfgang Kohl.
You two will be roommates in subdorm-8."
....."Hi," said Wolfgang, shyly.
....."Hi." Kip could see that Wolfgang
felt awkward as well, and looked as if he'd like to escape. Kip gazed
up at his dad. "Can we go exploring, please?"
....."What?" Professor Campbell
looked to Dr. Ralph. "It's all right with me, but..."
....."I don't see why not," said
Dr. Ralph, glancing at the Kohls, "if...."
....."I think it would be nice if you
boys got to know each other," said Wolfgang's mother in a foreign
accent. She glanced at her son. "Wolfy?"
.....The boy nodded. His father nodded as
....."Fine," said Dr. Ralph, "But
be back at five o'clock to say goodbye to your parents. And right after
that, there's a student orientation."
.....The word goodbye hit Kip like a blow.
He'd pushed out of his mind the fact that his parents would be going home
without him. He felt a sudden sadness but he wasn't about to show it–not
in front of another kid.
....."Okay," said Kip in a small
....."The orientation is at Snack Bar,"
Dr. Ralph added. He stressed the word bar.
.....Kip looked at him quizzically.
....."The snack bar and lounge in Feynman
Hall." Dr. Ralph pointed away at one of the new buildings. "Five
.....Kip held up his arm, exposing his wristwatch.
"Yes, sir." He and Wolfgang jogged away.
.....They started their explorations with
the Feynman School buildings. It was their school and besides, the three
buildings were open. Before going into the observatory/planetarium complex,
Kip looked back at the carousel. "Doesn't it seem sort of weird for
a school to have a merry-go-round?"
....."It does, sort of." Wolfgang
spoke without any trace of an accent. "But my dad, he's a physicist.
He does quantum mechanics. He thinks it's a great idea. He says that you
can study centrifugal forces, centripetal forces, and curved space times
until you're blue in the face, but to truly understand them, just play
catch for a couple of hours on a moving carousel."
....."Fun!" Kip turned away from
the carousel. "My dad's a professor of neurobiology. He says quantum
mechanics is fascinating. He thinks neurolinguistics might have something
to do with it."
.....They prowled around under the dome of
the planetarium. Wolfgang opened a cabinet behind the control console.
"Wow. This place is VRIT enabled!"
....."Really?" Kip was impressed.
"A full Virtual Reality Immersion Theater?"
....."And not just paper polarized glasses.
Headsets with flicker-lenses and stereo sound."
.....Kip started toward the cabinet. "Does
it have any good VritFlics?"
....."Lots," said Wolfgang, scanning
the titles. "Star formation, galaxy formation, and evolution of the
solar system. And genuine Mars exploration–not a simulation. This
....."But no werewolf movies."
.....Wolfgang chuckled. "'Fraid not.
At least I didn't see any." He closed the cabinet. "Let's check
out the observatory."
.....They left the planetarium and moved
to the matching dome of the observatory.
....."Seems a very little telescope
for a dome this big," said Kip after Wolfgang had found and switched
on a light.
....."Small?" said Wolfgang in
a voice of awe. "That's a seven hundred millimeter Schmidt-Cassagrainian,"
He caressed the telescope: pawing over it, turning the focus knob, peering
at the expanse of purple coated glass. "I'd kill to own this."
.....Kip saw the lust in Wolfgang's eyes
and didn't doubt him. "You like astronomy."
....."My main hobby. I know the names
of most of the stars in the sky. What's your hobby?"
....."I play the bassoon." Kip
paused. "And I'm a werewolf," he added, casually.
....."What's with this werewolf stuff?"
said Wolfgang, still stroking the telescope.
....."Werewolves are great." Kip
gave a wolfish growl. "You run around after bed time, howl at the
moon, eat interesting food, and you're your own pet."
.....Kip urged his new friend away from the
telescope. "Come on; let's check out the other buildings."
.....They left the planetarium complex by
the back way and cut diagonally across to Feynman Hall. They wandered
through the labs, a few classrooms and then went into a large room labeled
Snack/2p. "Think this is Snack Bar?" said Kip.
....."Probably," said Wolfgang.
"But I don't know what it means. I bet it's some science joke. I'll
ask my dad."
.....The lecture-hall sized room, filled
with big round tables and chairs, had a row of vending machines along
one wall while the opposite wall had a long strip of what looked like
old-fashioned blackboards. Except there were controls on it.
....."We had this in my old school,"
said Wolfgang. "Automatic blackboards. Computers can write things
on them." He ambled up to a control box set into the bottom of the
blackboard, read the labeling, and then said. "Hey, watch this!"
Wolfgang moved a slide switch and the windows gradually turned from transparent
to opaque–plunging Snack Bar into darkness. Then he said, "Let
there be light!" and the windows went clear again. "Active windows.
....."Yeah. It really is." Kip
continued exploring. "Hey, wow!" he said, standing in front
of a vending machine. "The food is free." He looked some more.
"Phooey! Only the healthy food is free."
.....Wolfgang came over. "My old school
had these, too. They're green machines–people powered. You turn
a crank and the fruit comes out." He turned the handle and watched
through the transparent window as a banana fell to the bottom.
....."I wonder," said Kip. "What's
to prevent people from cranking out all the fruit and selling it on street
....."They're usually padlocked when
no one's around." Wolfgang reached in for the banana. "And anyway,
there probably isn't a street corner for fifty kilometers."
....."Yeah. Right." Kip turned
away from the machines. "Come on. Let's explore the dormitory–we
can hunt for Subdorm-8."
....."We'll see that tonight, anyway,"
said Wolfgang as he peeled the banana. "Let's explore somewhere else."
....."Yeah, okay." They left the
building by the front entrance onto the Heisenberg Commons, then cut across
the grass to the main Amdexter building."
....."Founders Hall," said Kip,
reading words engraved on the brickwork. His gaze moved up to rest at
the tower-like top floor. "Sort of like a castle. Spooky, isn't it?"
.....Kip looked at his watch–both to
check the time and to show off. He'd had it for two weeks, and ever since,
he'd been obsessed with time.
.....Wolfgang peered at the watch. "Wow,"
he said. "That watch looks like it does everything."
....."My dad bought it for me because
the school doesn't allow us to have cell phones."
....."They don't?" said Wolfgang.
.....Kip scanned the building from bottom
to top. Being uninhabited at the moment, it looked sinister. He let his
eyes come to rest at the tower. "Probably so when they take us up
there to beat us for not doing our homework, we won't be able to phone
our parents and beg them to rescue us."
.....Wide-eyed through his glasses, Wolfgang
stared at Kip. "They beat kids at this school?" he asked in
a small voice.
....."Of course not. Just joking."
Again, Kip glanced at the archaic tower. "But I wouldn't be surprised."
Kip trotted up the front steps and rubbed his hand over the prehistoric
brickwork. "Rougher than a tiger's tongue." Then he then went
to try the front door.
....."You have a very good imagination,"
said Wolfgang, following after.
....."Yeah. That's probably why I'm
at ESAP." Kip wiggled the doorknob. "Locked."
....."What do you mean, that's why you're
at ESAP?" said Wolfgang. "I got admitted because I scored very
high on the test and my orals examiner said I had the brains to be a physicist."
....."Well I didn't score very high."
Kip yanked on the doorknob again. "But my orals examiner said that
I had the instincts of a physicist–an exceptionally good physical
intuition, what ever that means." He trotted back down the steps.
"Let's see what's round back."
.....Wolfgang stayed at the door. "Cheap
cylinder," he said, peering down at the door lock. "Anyone competent
could open this in a minute."
.....Kip jogged back up the steps. "Could
you?" he said with a mocking smile.
....."I could if I had tools."
....."Tools?" Kip laughed. "What?
A stick of dynamite?"
....."I mean a little spring that you
can make from a paper clip and a lock pick that you can make from a girl's
flat hair pin."
....."Yeah, right." Once again,
Kip padded down the steps. "Come on!"
.....As they jogged around the corner of
Founders Hall a gust of wind took Kip's school cap. He chased and caught
it in the gap between Founders and the chapel.
....."Creepy," said Wolfgang as
he caught up. "The chapel being all closed up."
....."And on a Sunday." Kip let
his gaze rise to the chapel's steeple. "Looks like there might be
a real bell up there."
....."As opposed to an artificial bell?"
....."I mean I hope it's a real bell
and not just bells played through a crappy PA system." Kip dropped
his eyes from the steeple to the hat in his hand. "I wonder why there's
a cat on it."
....."The steeple?" Then Wolfgang
followed Kip's gaze. "Oh." He peered at the cat-badge emblazoned
with the word 'Scientia'. "Dad says it's probably because of the
Schrödinger Cat Paradox."
.....Wolfgang shrugged. "My dad says
it’s hard to explain. And he said he expects I'll be able to explain
it to him during winter break."
.....Kip felt a pang of homesickness. "I
have a cat at home," he said in a soft voice. "His name is Sniffles.
I'll miss him."
....."Funny name for a cat."
....."Yeah." Kip laughed himself
out of his homesickness. "When we got him, we didn't know my sister
was a little allergic to cats. She named him." He glanced at his
cap again. "I wonder what's on the Amdexter kids' hats."
....."It's an A," said Wolfgang.
"I saw it in the Amdexter brochure."
....."Maybe it means they're androids."
.....As they went around to the rear of Founders,
Kip slapped his cap on to his head. "Silly, these school caps."
....."It makes it easier for them to
....."They don't need to." Kip
casually checked the back door of Founders. "They could just monitor
the RFID tags in our clothes." The door was locked.
....."The name-tags our parents sewed
to our clothes," said Kip. "They have tags in them, like the
tags that keep you from stealing CDs from stores. It's so they can automatically
take care of our laundry and to take attendance." He stood on tip-toes
to look in a window on the first floor in the rear of Founders. "Hey!"
he whispered, "this is the headmaster's office."
....."How do you know?"
....."Before my dad enrolled me in ESAP,
he said he wanted to investigate Amdexter. We visited the headmaster here
in this office." He dropped back down to below the window.
.....Beginning to run out of places to explore,
they headed roughly back in the direction they'd come. "But if they
had a really good RFID scanner," said Kip, "they could track
us wherever we went."
.....Kip giggled. "And they could even
scan us to see if we're wearing somebody else's underwear."
.....Emerging from the lane between Founders
and the faculty-housing block, they came upon a compact, garden-like quadrangle.
Surrounded as it was by Founders Hall, faculty housing, the athletics
building and the Amdexter dorm, it was nearly hidden from outside view.
It had paths, statues, and even a little pond.
....."This must have been the original
quad," said Kip. "Before they built the Dalambertian."
....."I wonder what Dalambertian means,"
....."Probably Big Quadrangle in Latin
or something." Kip led the way out of the quad, through the gap in
the far side between the dorm and the athletic building. There wasn't
much ahead–only a parking lot and a shed.
.....By unspoken agreement, they went to
the shed: a spare metal structure with a high window and a wooden door
with a keypad lock.
....."Darn!" said Kip, "another
....."Ah," said Wolfgang, leaning
down to examine it. "But this one, I can open–without tools."
....."Really." Wolfgang glanced
over his shoulder at Kip. "Simple four-pin mechanical keypad. And
four digits have wear-marks." He straightened. "They only used
those digits in the combination."
....."Where did you learn all this?"
said Kip, all of a sudden willing to believe in Wolfgang's lock-picking
....."From my dad." Wolfgang gave
a quizzical look. "I told you. He's a physicist," he said as
if that explained everything.
....."Only four times three times two
times one possible combinations," said Wolfgang, his eyes on the
keypad. "Didn't even repeat a digit. Just twenty-four possibilities."
.....Wolfgang moved a finger to the lock,
paused, and then drew back. "Dad said if I used the sacred art for
a bad reason, he'd abschwarte me."
....."What?" said Kip in frustration.
"What does that mean?"
....."Don't know." Wolfgang bit
his lip. "I'm not in a hurry to find out."
....."But.... But it's not a bad reason.
....."Well...." Wolfgang looked
at the lock again. "Well, Dad says curiosity is a good thing."
....."Open it," said Kip in a cajoling
....."Okay." Wolfgang started pushing
buttons. In under a minute, a click came from the lock. "Five, six,
eight, seven," said Wolfgang. "Dumb!" He pushed the door
open. "Ta da!"
.....The shed was dark and inviting. Shadowy
light from a dirty window showed rakes, shovels, a riding mower, gas cans,
old rags and newspapers, and a few empty beer cans. Attached to a beam
supporting the roof was a bare light bulb with a pull chain. And on the
metal wall, a hook held an out of date calendar. A shaft of light from
the window shone on a rickety table and two chairs.
....."What a great hideout!" said
....."It'll be good to have a place
to run off to when we need to get away from the school."
....."I don't think we're allowed to
be here," said Wolfgang.
....."That's the point."
....."Well, I don't like it." Wolfgang
wrinkled his nose. "Smells bad in here. Gasoline."
....."So?" said Kip, narrowing
his eyes. "If it ever gets to a point where we can't take it anymore,
we can burn down the school."
.....Wolfgang looked frightened for an instant.
Then he flashed a thin smile. "You're kidding again, aren't you?"