Two months into first semester at college, Sinjin had let everyone on campus know to keep their distance. A suspicious look for anyone who got close to her was hint number one; hint number two was her turning down anyone who asked her for homework help with a harsh "my schoolwork concerns only me, and yours only you". In general, anyone who asked her for directions to a part of campus or an invitation to some sort of event didn't get the answer they wanted. With her few close friends either attending a different college or living back home, the only company Sinjin wanted was her own. She intended for things to remain that way until she completed her studies.
She assumed her intention would face no obstacles; that assumption went out the window on the day she was called into the dean's office. It was the first time any member of the administration wanted to speak to her directly. She walked into the office wearing her usual getup: unzipped black jacket, matching white top, and black pants tucked into matching ankle-length boots. To compliment her outfit, her short waves of hair were dark, as were her eyes.
She was greeted with a "come in, make yourself at home" upon stepping into dimly-lit office warmed up by a fireplace. The first thing she did upon sitting in the brown leather chair across from the dean's desk was take note of the chair just to her left. The young man sittingnext to her was quick to offer a smile and a "good afternoon". His dark eyes gave off a much gentler tone than Sinjin's, though she only focused on how unkempt he looked. His dark fell down in uneven bangs, his navy blue shirt collar was noticeably wrinkled and his facial hair was decently long. To her, he looked like someone she wasn't interested in talking to.
"I believe an introduction and explanation is in order," the dean said, putting on a pair of square-shaped glasses and reading from the paper in his hand. "I called the two of you here because you are the most intelligent, gifted and promising students this university has to offer. I have been keeping close track of your grades and am nothing short of impressed with you both. I've come to expect that from you, Mr. Keir, but Miss Sinjin has proven to be quite a surprise in just her first year here."
A bright smile was on his face, as if he expected Sinjin to look proud of herself or thank him for his words. All he got from her was a nod that took away a bit of his smile. "Typically," he continued, "there will be a select number of new students who stand out from the rest. You mydear are already standing light years ahead of everyone else in your year. That's where Mr. Keir," he gestured to the smiling young man, "comes in. Since you've already been informed of the situation," he gave Sinjin a somewhat nervous glance, "perhaps you would be better off bringing our friend here up to speed."
"I'd prefer being called by name and nothing else," Sinjin said sharply.
"Fair enough," Keir said, kicking up his legs, covered by navy blue pants that were tucked into brown dress shoes. "The big shots here on campus think it would be beneficial for you and me to work together, since we're both the best in our year. It's a classic example of two heads being better than one, y'know?"
"I work best independently," Sinjin said, standing up and turning away.
"And that's all good," Keir said, standing up and beating her to the door. "However, the university thinks the opposite might be the case. If by any chance," he noticed Sinjin's right arm trying to reach past him, which he stopped with a grab, "you absolutely hate working with me, then we can easily-"
Sinjin yanked her arm away, spun around him and grabbed the doorknob.
"...Let you go back to doing your own thing."
Sinjin opened the door, but stood in place. "What would I have to gain from working with you?" She asked.
"It's simple," Keir said with a shrug. "If you do this, you name will be out there for all scientists to know. Your studies may focus more specifically on computer science than mine, but I still know enough about that branch to be of assistance."
"He's right about getting more notice," the dean added. He gestured to the wall behind him, which was lined with gold-framed portraits. "This university has already produced its fair share of scientists who went on to accomplish great things. Major companies and research labs all over the prime territories are always keeping an eye on our students to see if any promising talent will show itself."
"In conclusion," Keir said, returning to his seat, "You have a chance to let just about all of the big wigs in the prime territories see what you can do. I don't know what plans you have after graduating, but this could be the first big step to making those plans a reality."
Without looking back at her company, Sinjin said "I'll think about it" and left the room.
"Good thing she's not taking a public speaking class," Keir said to the dean, "or her grades wouldn't be so perfect."
"I think it sounds like a wonderful opportunity, dear! Wouldn't it be great to have your name out there?"
"Yes and no," Sinjin replied, while pacing around the stone steps leading to the library. Like her avoidance of social interaction, afternoons spent on the library's steps talking into her phone were a daily practice. She moved swiftly, one hand planted on her hip while the other tightly clutched the white phone that was barely the size of her palm.
"I think I would prefer working individually and climbing to the top on my own," Sinjin said. "That Keir person admitted his study isn't specifically computer science, so who knows how much we'll be able to cooperate? If he's on a level below mine, he'd likely slow me down."
"Listening to you talk is really strange sometimes," said the soothing, feminine voice coming from the phone. "When I hear you speak, I imagine a woman in her early thirties, not a first year college student."
Sinjin took a deep breath. "I'm talking without paying attention to what I'm saying. My words make me sound as if I think I'm too good for him."
"I think your words make you sound nervous," replied the voice. "I can hear the voice of a child still recovering from a life of uncertainty and distrust. I believe the orphan who struggled to survive in the lower territories is still with us, in a sense."
"You're just hearing that voice, Mother," Sinjin said testily. "I left that orphan in the lower territories where she belongs, and I don't plan on welcoming her back into my life."
A soft sigh over the phone tingled Sinjin's ears. "You are an adult, therefore your decisions are yours to make. All I can do is offer my opinion, and my opinion is that you should accept that poor orphan."
"I can't do that," Sinjin replied, her voice straining a little. "I vowed I was never going to look back. I plan to uphold that vow for the rest of my life."
"Does that mean you're going to turn down Keir's offer?" Said Sinjin's mother, sounding a tad disappointed.
"Mother," Sinjin said in a softer tone, "I already have people I care about. All of the support I need in my life comes from you, Father, and my friends back home. With that love, there's no way anything can able to pull me down."
"As always," said Sinjin's mother, "I'll be cheering for you to succeed. I love you, Sinjin."
"I love you too, Mother."
"So this is the kind of stuff she can do?"
"That's right," the dean said, wiping his brow and fidgeting a little. "In fact, I can't help but wish she was here at the moment."
"That certainly would help," Keir said, rolling up his sleeves, "but since we don't know when or if we'll ever hear back from her, we're just gonna have to work with what we've got. Speaking of which," he looked around the computer lab, "why exactly is this place almost empty?"
"The head of the computer lab is away at a conference," said the dean, "and he took his assistants with him for learning experience." He shook his head and chuckled. "Amusing, isn't it? The head of a university such as ours, one of the most prestigious in the prime territories, needs a freshman to simply fix a faulty computer."
"Well," Keir smiled, "stuff breaks sometimes. That's just a part of life, and so is fixing the broken stuff. As for what's causing the problem," he pushed the start button on the computer, "let's find out."
Brightly colored rectangles appeared in the air in front of the computer as the screen came on. Keir placed his fingers on a small, bright red one to control the mouse. He only got about three seconds of control before the screensaver of the university's administrative office was replaced with a bright green screen that had "ERROR: NO NERDS MAY USE THIS COMPUTER" in bright pink letters with a unicorn border. Fart noises and raspberry sounds emanated from the computer all full blast, causing the dean to wince and plug his ears.
"I'll give whoever made this virus credit," Keir said with a laugh. "They sure know what they're doing."
"That's why he used to be one of the top computer science students at this university," the dean grumbled. "Then one day I caught him hacking one of the lab's computers to transfer pornography onto the laptop of a student he didn't particularly care for. I guess you could call... THIS," he flapped his arms as a naked woman appeared on the computer screen and winked, "his revenge."
"Well," Keir double-tapped a bright green button close to the computer screen, "I'll just have to access this baby's central memory and see where that nasty virus' point of origin is. Once I delete it, then I'll just need to track down the rest of the infected files and-"
An image of two naked women doing something that had the dean screaming "GOOD GRIEF!" appeared on the screen. "Access denied, sugar," said a soft voice. "But I know something else you can access..."
"TURN IT OFF!" The dean pushed past Keir and pushed a black button on the back of the computer. The sound of a wailing siren rang from the computer, which stayed on. The dean pushed the button again and again, and the siren kept going off until the soft voice spoke again. "Why don't you leave that button alone and push something else, honey?"
"This is both the most fascinating and most disturbing thing I have ever seen from technology," Keir said, his eyes closed.
"Give it time, and it'll just be part of your top ten."
Sinjin stepped into the computer lab, her eyes on Keir. "The dean's assistant told me I could find the two of you in here." She looked at the computer screen, which displayed more lewd activity while smooth jazz played over loud moans.
"As you can see," Keir said with nervous laughter, "this is one stubborn bugger. But that's quite alright, I like having my skills challenged." He went to the back of the computer and removed the casing in the center. "It looks like I'll have to take a look at the internal wiring and-"
"Actually," the dean chimed in, "perhaps, if miss Sinjin is interested, she could help you?" He turned to Sinjin.
"Since I'm here," Sinjin said, "I shall offer my assistance for your current predicament."
She kept staring at Keir, curious to see how he would handle the virus. "Since this is a MEGATECH-U7 model," he said, "I should be able to scramble the virus by simply rewiring the computer's brain." He moved a few wires around. "This should alter the central memory enough to expose the virus and make it easier to-"
The smooth jazz blared even louder,and the women started screaming. A panicked-sounding voice called out "You're getting so worked up, dear! Why not take a load off, along with your clothes?". Keir rolled his eyes and pulled out two of the wires. "This will disable most of the programs, including the infected ones. It should shut up the virus just enough to-"
The sound of sparks could be heard from the wiring, and smoke started to emanate. "Ohhhhh my, you've really turned us on now, dearies!" Came the voice as a fire alarm rang from the computer. "If you don't stop, things are gonna get reeeeeealllllly hoooottttt..."
All of the other computers in the lab turned on, each one displaying naked women who chanted "turn up the heeeeeaaaaaatttt" repeatedly. The dean fell over in shock, though Keir and Sinjin remained calm, even when the computer lab's fire alarm went off.
"I should've guessed this would happen," Keir said. "Why infect only one computer when you can access the prime mainframe and infect every single one?" He watched Sinjin walk over to the smoking computer. "I take it you know what needs to be done?"
"Do you?" Sinjin asked.
"I guess both of us are going to find out what the other person knows," Keir replied, ignoring the presence of small flames in the computer that was first to be infected.
While Keir put his finger on the power button, Sinjin walked to the center of the lab, where a silver, metallic orb floated over a light blue circle on the ground. Rectangles that were supposed to control the prime mainframe were replaced with lewd images that Sinjin ignored as she placed both of her hands on the orb.
"Am I the only one who is RATHER ALARMED BY THE SMELL OF SMOKE?!" Shouted the dean over the repeated echoing of the women and the fire alarms. "WHATEVER IT IS YOU'RE GOING TO DO, PLEASE DO IT SOON!"
Sinjin pulled the orb out of the circle, causing the rectangles to display static. She repeatedly pulled the prime mainframe in and out; Keir pushed the power button on the computer repeatedly as fast as he could, even as flames came from all the other computers. The dean ran out of the computer lab in a panic while Sinjin and Keir kept doing their respective actions.
"W-W-WuTTTTT iZZZZZ yuuuuuUUUU DOOOing?!" Screeched all of the women. "DuntYuuuuuuuuuuuUUUUUUUUUuuuuuuuuWAAAAAAAAAAAAANnnnnnnnAAAaaAAAAAAAA-H-H-H-H-HAVESOMEFUNWITHU-U-U-U-Usssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss-"
Sinjin pulled out the orb right as Keir pushed the power button, and all of the computers shut down simultaneously. The former grabbed a fire extinguisher and the latter picked up the orb, opening up ts internal wiring.
"Glad to know both of us made the right call in trusting the other person." Keir said.
"You acted without hesitation and knew exactly what to do," Sinjin replied, offering Keir a small smile. "Well done."
"Unfortunately for this poor prime mainframe," Keir said, "it'll need a new heating/cooling unit."
"That's where the virus was hiding its point of origin?" Sinjin asked.
"Oh?" Keir raised an eyebrow and smirked. "You didn't know that the virus' core is hiding in the H/C unit?"
"That would explain the fires," Sinjin replied hastily, "but why would the virus' core be-"
"MT U-7's," Keir interrupted, "have a different H/C unit than any other MT models. They were the victims of an experiment that put part of the brain in the H/C unit in an attempt to provide them with more power and reduce the chance of overheat with extended usage. Unfortunately," he watched Sinjin put out the last of the fires, "U-7's are perfect virus bait as a result."
"I've never used any computers in this lab," Sinjin said. "As a result, I have no experience with a MT U-7." She sighed and leaned against the wall near the door.
"Don't let this experience make you think you need to work with me," Keir said with a soft smile. "I just know a lot about U-7's because my father once used one." He took a deep breath, suddenly looking sad. "I knew more in this situation, but that doesn't make me smarter."
Sinjin walked over to Keir and took his hand, firmly shaking it. "Thank you for helping me realize that I worry far too much at times."
"I don't know what that means," Keir chuckled, "but you're welcome."
"I was planning to help a friend of mine get a virus off of her computer this weekend," Sinjin said. "Would you be interested in assisting me?"
"Why not?" Keir headed towards the door. "Hopefully I'll be able to teach you some more and prove today wasn't a fluke."
"We both have much to learn," Sinjin said, smiling again, "thus we both have much to teach."