Kinney Robertson sat in a small patch of sunlight, next to a window that sprinkled light on her short brown hair. Her head was bent over a book, and she mouthed the words unconsciously as her eyes skimmed across the page. The screams and yells of the other children filtered through the walls, but she didn’t appear to register them. She was completely immersed, and the world around her didn’t exist anymore.
At least, it didn’t exist until the silence was crudely shattered by a bell, ringing insistently next to her ear. She jumped, her heart racing like a drum in her chest as her world was crudely destroyed. It took a few seconds for her to be calm again.She ruefully reflected that she was probably never going to get used to the rigidly controlled days at boarding school. Mornings were signalled by a bell. Mealtimes were signalled by a bell. There was even a bell to tell you when to sleep. Sighing, Kinney un-curled her gangly limbs and began the long trek to her class.
Maths was one of life’s great failings. To think, that the world that had birdsong, music, and copious amounts of chocolate, also had algorithms, angles and fractions. Rather like raisin biscuits. Absolutely fine until one of those horrible, acidic raisins slithered onto your tongue. Kinney sighed wistfully. It had only been a few minutes since lunch, and already she was hungry. Still, there was always midnight to look forward to.
Kinney loved the night. The night was private- no one could intrude in her space, no one could look at her. Most of all, no one could interrupt her. Kinney could sneak out her window, scramble down the gutter, and go for long, moonlit walks, or lie on her back and look at the stars, contemplating the meaning of life, the universe and everything. She never had any great epiphanies, but it was nice to think that she might. Wrenching herself out of her reverie, Kinney dodged a flying backpack, skirted a dropped fruit salad, and ducked into her class.
The one thing that was good about maths class, Kinney mused, was probably the view out the window. Admittedly, it was fun to stare at the back of people’s heads to see if they would look at you, but the window was still the best. From it, she could gaze at the grounds of the school- rolling green pastures, dotted here and there with hurdles for the horses. Kinney slid into a seat at the back of the room and sighed. She hadn’t done her homework, and knew that trouble would come her way, unless-
“We meet again, Kinney.”
Kinney breathed a sigh of relief, turning to the new occupant of the seat next to her with a smile already gracing her features.
“Apparently so, Armand. How goes your day?”
Armand inclined his head to one side slightly. “It goes well. And you, fair lady?”
“Just spiffing. Well, mostly. I-“
Armand interrupted her speech with a gentlemanly wave of his hand. “Not to worry, fair Kinney. Dost thou wish to copy thy homework?”
Kinney nodded, taking the offered maths sheet gratefully. Armand was Spanish- his father dealt in oil, and had wanted the best possible education for his boy. Not that education meant much to Armand- like Kinney, he was almost constantly immersed in books, but his were tales of valour and justice. In Armand’s books, the heroes always won, and the villains were always brought to justice. Kinney had tried one once and almost vomited in her mouth. Damsels in distress were all very well, but psychotic serial killers, aliens and cannibals were much more fun. Kinney finished filling in her paper with a flourish, just as Mr Roman slinked in to the room, greasy hair freshly oiled. She smiled contentedly, and prepared for another fifty-five minutes of not listening.
Mr Roman leered at the class as he stood, wavering slightly at the front of the maths room. He was by far one of the most unpleasant creatures Kinney had ever had the misfortune to come across, and that was saying something as she had met a corpse. Well, ‘met’ as in she had been locked in a room with it for half an hour. She hadn’t been scared though. All she’d wanted to do was see if it had rotted at all yet, and instead she’d been able to spend some pleasant talking to someone who couldn’t contradict her. But still- it had been a corpse, and telling the tale at lunch always got a good response. Kinney slouched further in her chair, and began doodling on her book.
“…that the discovery of extra powerful telescope, though off-topic…”
Her doodle was beginning to take shape. It looked like a dragon, but it was missing claws.
“…recently seen in the news…”
The claws looked lovely and pointy now.
“…allowed astronomers to discover habitable planets, by extra magnification…”
Kinney shot upright in her chair, yanking a few back muscles in the process. Her hand waved in the air. Mr Roman frowned at her suspiciously. Not once in his whole teaching career had Kinney Robertson voluntarily spoken in his class. He pushed his ill-fitting glasses further up his nose and squinted at her.
“Yes, Miss Robertson?”
Kinney took a breath. “I was just thinking about what you said, sir.”
“Really?” Mr Roman sounded genuinely surprised.
“About extra powerful telescopes. So we can see stuff.”
“Things, Miss Robertson.”
“Yes, things stuff. Anyway, I was wondering- can they actually see other planets? And how close up can they see them? Can they see any other… stuff?”
Mr Roman pinched his greasy nose. “Kindly define what you mean by other ‘stuff’ Miss Robertson.”
Kinney frowned. “Stuff. Continents and… things. Aliens.”
A wave of laughter swept over the class. Kinney flushed and slid further down in her seat. Mr Roman moved his hand to his mouth in a poor attempt to smother a smile. “Aliens. Miss Robertson, even if it were possible, the discovery of life on other planets would not be necessary. We have our own other-worldly specimen right here.”
More laughter. Kinney felt Armand’s disbelief, and felt glad that someone, at least, was on her side. She shook her head and spent the rest of class finishing her dragon.
“Kinney Robertson! Pray, slow down!” Armand arrived at Kinney’s shoulder, breathing hard. She slowed her pace slightly, but her footsteps still created a staccato tattoo on the floor of the empty school corridor.
“Did you see what he did, Armand? He humiliated me. He can’t do that. He didn’t even consider that I might be right.”
Kinney spun to face Armand, her face flushed. “I am right. I know I am. I just have to prove it.”
Armand, taking advantage of the break in Kinney’s aggravated march, took a few deep breaths. “Right you may be, fair Kinney, but I still do not understand your aim. Care to explain?”
Kinney began to march again. “Walk and talk.”
“There was recently an experiment conducted by scientists in Tibet.”
“They have scientists there?”
“Apparently. Anyway, they discovered that by using some sort of special glass from that meteor that hit- remember that?”
Armand nodded, too out of breath to answer. A few months ago, a meteor had hit Earth. It had been very small, creating a crater somewhere far out in the country, but had reacted oddly with the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere. It had expanded, and at last count it took up as much space as a small skyscraper. People had been chipping pieces off it before it was taken away (Mavis Buckland in year ten apparently had a bucketful), and only days later ‘Krinion’ glass had been discovered. Krinion glass was green and purple, and looked very nice on the cover of National Geographic.
“They discovered that by replacing glass in ordinary telescopes with Krinion glass, they could increase the magnification so significantly that many other planets became visible.”
Armand grasped Kinney’s arm, stalling her. “And you, fair Kinney, believe that more detailed…things…may be seen?”
Kinney smiled. “Exactly. Now, are you going to help me or not?”
“!?” Armand asked.
“;)” Kinney replied.
“Help you with what, exactly?” Armand asked again.
Kinney frowned, as though not grasping what she meant was beyond her understanding. “Getting out hands on one of those telescopes and proving Mr Roman wrong, of course!”
Armand stopped suddenly. “So you, fair Kinney, wish to possibly steal a extra-powerful telescope and view aliens, all to prove your maths teacher wrong?”
Kinney clicked her fingers. “Precisely.”
Armand watched her as she marched briskly away, not noticing that he was no longer by her side. He shook his head, wondering why on earth he would agree to partake in such an insane plan.
Then he shrugged. He knew.
He was insane as well.