20. A Sky High Invitation
4 January 2055 /// 1200h
Sky High, the most prestigious of the three high schools in New Idaho, is located on the eastern edge of the city, just west of Perimeter Road. Since the school wasn’t actually on the Ring itself, some disputed the name “Sky High”. When addressing these naysayers, the student body would point out that not only was everything in this town technically in the sky, there was also a well-travelled trail you could take from the Sky High soccer fields up to the top of Sky Mountain, one of the more promintent peaks on the Ring.
Keeping with the aeronautical theme, the mascot of Sky High was the hippogriff. Although slightly more inventive than the Jungle High Jaguars or the Mountain High Cougars, this mascot was still scoffed at by rivals. Those at Sky High didn’t much care. They wore their blue and silver proudly, and if they ever thought of the other high schools, it was generally just to feel sorry for them. After all, it was no secret that Sky High was the premier high school in New Idaho.
The school itself contained three buildings, each of them two stories high. The central building was in the shape of a circle, with classrooms lining the outer edge and a cafeteria, lit by skylight, in the center.
Snow currently sat in this cafeteria with his friends Adam and Ricky 2. Ricky 2 had been talking nonstop about Lucidity, and didn’t seem interested in letting up any time soon.
‘For real, Adam,’ said Ricky 2, ‘you have to see if Snow will let you try it or something. It’s insane. You wouldn’t even believe it.’
‘See if I’ll let him?’ said Snow. ‘Why don’t you just let him if it’s that important to you?’
‘Wow, some friend,’ Ricky 2 said. ‘You won’t even share with Adam? I’m ashamed of you.’
Snow rolled his eyes.
‘Anyway,’ Ricky 2 said, ‘you have to see it to believe it. You’ve tried it, Snow, you understand!’
Snow nodded. It had been quite the experience, being able to play back his dreams for the past week. It had actually started to take up a good bit of his morning routine as he at least skimmed through all the dreams. He would even watch some dreams multiple times. So far, all the consequences seemed highly positive.
‘Well,’ said Adam, ‘it’s a little freaky, but I guess I’ll be on it someday.’
‘Everybody will,’ said Ricky 2. ‘That’s the thing—this stuff is too good not to be in the hands of everybody by the ‘60s. And by that time, who knows. Maybe we’re talking to each other with our brains.’
‘That sounds crazy,’ said Adam.
‘You don’t get it,’ said Ricky 2. ‘You haven’t seen how it works. Tell him, Snow!’
‘You’re right. It does sound crazy,’ Snow said, ‘But Ricky 2’s right. If this thing can read my dreams, there’s no doubt it can read my thoughts in the same way. After that, it’s just a matter of getting it out to you.’
‘Damn,’ said Adam. ‘I’m almost scared to try it.’
‘It really doesn’t even feel like anything,’ Ricky 2 said. 'You hardly know it’s there even when you touch it.’
Ricky 2 was ready to geek over his new toy even longer, but was interrupted by an announcement over the PA system: ‘Would the following students please come to the office:’. The voice unmistakably belonged to the principle, Gordon Thistlewit. Along with his husband, Vice Principal Maximillian Thistlewit, Gordon was most directly responsible for the success and continued prestige of Sky High.
As soon as Ricky 2's name was called, he experienced a quick reactive sinking feeling in his gut before he realized that (A) Gordon was the Thistlewit who generally dealt in good news and (B) Snow had been called as well.
Snow and Ricky 2 said goodbye to Adam and headed outside to go to the slightly curved building west of the Central Circle. In addition to more classrooms, this building housed the offices of the principle and vice principle. The building’s symmetrical counterpoint, on the eastern side of the central circle, housed the gymnasium, theatre, and band facilities.
As they entered the western building, Snow and Ricky 2 saw the other 30 or so students that had been called into the principal’s office. There were so many other students, in fact, that G. Thistlewit requested everybody simply find a place to sit on the floor of the reception area.
Snow waved to Gordon as he entered the office. ‘Hi Mr. G,’ he said, calling him by the moniker he had requested to differentiate himself from the ‘finer Thistlewit’.
‘Hello Snow. Hi Ricky 2. Welcome to the office. I hope it’s comfortable enough for you.’
‘Looks pretty great, Mr. G,’ said Ricky 2.
‘Well, thank you, Ricky 2. When we heard you would be coming, we made sure to freshen everything up to your standard.’ Gordon looked toward the entrance of the reception area, which the other students were periodically finding their way into. ‘Yes, everyone, please file in! We can fit you all, I promise. I was up all last night doing the measurements and talking to the Fire Marshall!’
Eventually the room was full of people. The receptionist sat behind her desk, wondering if this actually did constitute a fire hazard. She assumed Thistlewit’s crack about the Fire Marshall had been in jest.
Among the group of students, Snow could see a few faces he knew quite well, and a few more that he was actually friendly with. There was Camille Thomas, for instance, by far one of the prettiest girls in his grade. There was Marshall Tomlinson, decked out, as always, in gratuitous military gear, camouflage from head to toe (inside the relatively brown and man-made office, however, the outfit was more of a stylistic choice than a practical one). He could see Carlton Buristo, the star soccer player of Sky High, and one destined for a full scholarship to play at UNI. Before he could think on all the other 23-or-so heads and bodies in the room, Thistlewit began speaking:
‘Hi everybody! I know this is your valuable lunch time, so I’ll try to keep this short and sweet. Do any of you know why you’re here?’
A freckled, brown-haired girl sitting on the far end timidly raised her hand in the air. Snow recognized her as Cyanica Latiff. He had had some class with her at some point, though he couldn’t remember exactly what it had been. He remembered she was quite smart and nice, though he had to admit he couldn’t remember having thought of her since then.
‘Yes, Cyanica,’ said Thistlewit, as though he had thought of her, along with all the other students under his wing, every day of his career.
‘I don’t know everybody,’ Cyanica said, ‘but from who I do know, we are all seniors. And everyone whose parents I know have parents that work at Lucid Labs.’
‘Bingo,’ said Thistlewit. ‘That’s good. I’m surprised you got it so quick.’
‘Awh, we’re not about to get in trouble for having Lucidity in school, are we?’ The interjection came from a chubby kid in an orange hoody, Jake “Pretzel” Mendez.
‘No,’ said Gordon, ‘Not quite. If you’re sleeping in class, we have more issues than you recording your dreams. No, this is about an opportunity for this weekend. While we were on break, Aubrey Daskus reached out to me. Do any of you know who that is?’
Simon Simmons, a tall, spectacled boy spoke as he raised his hand. ‘She’s the president of New Idaho University. She basically started this town with Lex Lucid. Some people say she’s the reason we have a jungle.’
‘That’s right,’ Thistlewit said, nodding at Simon. ‘Though I cant speak on where our Jungle came from—that’s a mystery none of the teachers in New Idaho know the answer to! Ms. Daskus reached out to me over the break, and requested that I meet with all of you about an opportunity coming up this weekend to visit the University. You’ll get to sleep in the dorms for two nights and eat at the dining halls. She said something about a tour. It sounds like it will just be a general opportunity for you all to see what UNI is all about.
‘She requested you all because, as Cyanica said, you are all Lucid Labs kids. Of course, Ms. Daskus would like to show everyone her college if she could, but she has rightfully pointed out that the children in this town with connections to Lucid Labs are some of the most gifted we have.
‘That being said, there are about thirty of you in the room today, and Ms. Daskus has said she can only accommodate ten. So, in order to be fair, I have written the numbers one to thirty on a piece of paper, and placed them in this bowl. The lowest ten numbers will get to go on the trip.’ Thistlewit brandished the bowl toward his audience. ‘Now, before I pass this around, is there anybody who can absolutely not make it this weekend? Or anybody who knows for sure they don’t want to go?’ A number of hands shot into the air. ‘Okay,’ said Gordon. ‘You all are dismissed, unless you care to stay and watch. I won’t tell your teachers. Thank you for giving the rest of these folks a chance.’
About twelve of the students got up and left, leaving somewhere between 15 and 20 in the room. Gordon passed around the bowl and each student took a number. After everyone had a number, Gordon asked each student to call out what they had drawn. As per his rules, the ten lowest numbers got the opportunity to go on the trip.
Gordon dismissed everyone but the ten chosen, who were asked to stay behind to cover logistics. He promised that the back-up students would get the spiel in due time if they were needed to replace one of the original ten. Disappointed, the unlucky left the office and headed back to lunch.
After the exodus, the students left in the room were Snow, Ricky 2, Pretzel Mendez, Simon Simmons, Lucilia Trebello, Natalie Hefcorn, Camille Thomas, Cyanica Latiff, Marshall Tomlinson, and Carlton Buristo. Snow realized he knew each of these students by name, though he hadn’t spent a generous amount of time with many of them, other than Ricky 2.
‘Okay,’ said Gordon, ‘So it looks like this is our gang!’ He smiled at the congregation. ‘How do you feel? Is everyone excited to go?’ The reactions on the students’ faces ranged from gleeful to relatively nonplussed. Snow frowned at the apparent ungratefulness of some of the students before realizing that his frown itself may in fact be inspiring the same judgement from his classmates.
‘Well,’ said Gordon, ‘it looks to me like you all are excited enough, if not leaping out of your seats and doing jumping jacks. I know, it’s hard to get excited in the principal’s office, even if you are technically outside the doors.
‘That being said, here’s the itinerary Ms. Daskus sent me this morning. I have paper copies here, but I’m going to put it in the room’s Air Locker if you just want to pick it up on your Lenses.’ Snow opted for the latter option, activating Air Locker from the menu on the left side of his Lenses and downloading the itinerary on file. Gordon continued. ‘You’ll notice at the top a list of items to bring with you. Remember, this is an overnight trip. So be prepared for that. If you are under 18, you will need to get your parents’ signature on the itinerary. There will be a bus after school to take you up to UNI if you can’t get a ride. Other than that, you’re all good to go!’
The group of them headed back out to lunch, disbanding at the door. Snow thought it was odd that none of them stayed behind to talk about the surprise adventure they would soon be sharing together. Except, of course, Ricky 2.
‘Damn,’ he said to Snow. ‘A whole weekend on campus—I’m pumped as hell.’
‘Yeah, it should be fun.’
‘Too bad Adam couldn’t go. Guess we’re the lucky ones, huh?’
‘Yeah,’ said Snow, ‘I guess we are.’