Chapter 13: Keep to the Code

George Sadler woke up with a groan. He lifted his head off the table and felt a sharp pang in his back.

“Never again”

“If you’d been back sooner you’d’ve had a place on the couch.”

George slowly turned his head. “Mike fell asleep in front of it, couldn’t get there without waking him up. You have any pain killers on ya Steph?”

Susan shook her head, sending her blonde curls whirling around her face. “You would’ve been fine if you hadn’t bailed last night. We only have two weeks before its due you know. We barely have enough time to get the thing built. And once that’s done your program has to work right away or we’re screwed.”

“And I told you, as long as you get all the moving parts hooked up to where we told you our code will make it work.”

“If you say so.” Susan set a large box down on the table in front of him. “BREAKFAST!”

There was a loud shuffling front the other room and three more people stumbled in. George quickly opened the box and snagged the first jelly donut he saw.

“Hey, no fair. You can’t get a jelly before the rest of us even get there.”

George took a large chunk out of the donut. “Thure I cann.” He swallowed. “And they’re so much better when they’re warm too.”

George looked around the table. Mike, Susan, Tim and Tim, they had formed this warbot team half a year ago, and Susan had recruited him less than a month ago to finish off the bot’s programming. He still had no idea why, but he was grateful for the distraction. It was easier to keep the fire in check when he had other people to worry about.

Tim and Tim started arguing about the bot’s nailgun, trying to figure out if shrinking the tube anymore would put the nail over the safety limit. George tuned them out, physics was never his strongpoint.

Susan and Mike were in charge of the wiring, especially when the Tims got lost in the weapons, and they’d already had to swap them out four times to keep up with their improvements.

George had been brought in to help with Mike’s code. He wasn’t bad but he had no idea how to work with the type of chip they needed to and George had had to rewrite half of his code.

Mike looked over at George and Susan. “Do you understand what those two are saying?”

Susan shrugged. “I get every few words, but those two tend to skip half the equations I have to run through to understand that stuff.”

George shook his head and took another bite of the donut. “I stopped trying on the second day, I barely scraped by physics, and that was only because I did well on the electrical stuff, air pressure doesn’t make much sense to me. I’ll stick to the code, and I need to get back to work if I want to make up for leaving last night.”

“Speaking of which,” Tim interrupted. “Where did you go last night?”

“Good question,” said Tim.

George looked at the two of them. “I had to meet up with my old guidance counselor. My mom asked him to talk to me after what happened last summer.”

“You mean that earthquake you were caught in? The one that made you miss the first couple weeks of school?” Susan asked.

George nodded. “That’s it yeah. He’s just making sure I’m not letting it get to me, I guess. My mother thought I was letting it make my decisions for me, and he wanted my opinion on it.”

Mike scoffed. “Come on! Of course it affected you, doesn’t mean you’re gonna be controlled by it.”

“Maybe, but I have to admit I started acting differently around then. I can understand if they thought it had something to do with it. Hell, if you guys had asked me to join in last summer then I would’ve said no flat out. And I changed pretty quickly too.”

Tim spoke up. “That’s just college getting to you. You think you became a different person overnight when you just met people you get along with better.”

“Yeah,” Tim said. “I barely talked to anyone in high school and now look at me. I just can’t shut up.”

“I guess so.” George smiled. “I wasn’t much of a talker in high school either.”

“I doubt any of us were. There’re too many high schools in this city, and it’s not like they organize us on who we’d be friends with; it takes some doing to find people with hobbies like this, even in a city this big,” Susan said.

“Hear, hear,” Tim and Tim said.

“Yeah.” George nodded. “I guess you’re right.”

The topic switched back to their bot and they finished up breakfast, but George felt Susan’s eyes stay on him throughout the meal.

“Well,” Mike said after they had finished, “back to work.”


Two hours later, George collapsed back into his chair. The code had finally compiled, but he couldn’t test it until they finished wiring up the bot.

“You look happy with yourself.”

George swiveled in his chair and looked at Susan. “I’ve got it as close to done as it can get until you guys finish. Now I get to sit around and hope this works. I’ve never written something this complicated before, especially without external inputs. I hope it can work with that camera like it’s supposed to, everything hinges on the recognition routine working out, and I don’t have enough room to make it much longer.”

“What happened to all that confidence from earlier?”

“It disappeared about the time I had to rewrite the reload function on the nail gun for the fifth time. I hope those two didn’t mess with it much, I had to base the timing off the-”

“Don’t bother; I barely understood when Mike talked about this stuff. You’re a bit above my level. I’ll stick to the electrical side of things I think.”

“I can live with that.” George grabbed a water bottle and drank deeply from it. He took a moment to set the code compiling again. “Just to make sure.”

Susan nodded. “So are you going to tell me what that guy really said?”

George gave a start. “What do you mean?”

“You’re guidance counselor. He had to have more to say than that.”

“Not really. He just wanted to make sure I was comfortable with what happened.”

Susan eyed him and sighed. “If you say so. Just make sure you listen to him okay? He wouldn’t have that job if he didn’t know what he was talking about.”

George looked at his hands and saw a small blue spark on one of his fingers. “Yeah. I guess you’re right about that.”


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