Suki arrived in the observatory after dinner to find Ian staring at the board. "I don't think it will make any more sense if you just stare at it." Suki laid a hand on Ian's arm.
"They're polar opposites." Ian rubbed the bridge of his nose, resisting the temptation to shrug off Suki's hand. "It doesn't make any sense."
"Welcome to Tower Prep," Gabe said as he walked in. "Unless you're talking about the book that Literature assigned, I think they make you read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in normal schools too."
"What, the homework?" Ian made a face. "I'll start it later. I was talking about Corvis H40 and Chemica Desin."
"Let's just stay away from both of them," C.J. said vehemently, plopping her copy of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on the table. "They're both really dangerous."
"Yes, but one revs up powers and the other takes them away," Ian said. "Why is the same school developing both?"
C.J.'s forehead wrinkled in thought. "Nurse told you that the school tends to take on the character of its Headmaster, right?"
"So maybe they were developed by different headmasters," C.J. said.
"But what kind of place would hire two different headmasters with such different agendas?" Ian asked, trying to keep the volume of his voice under control. He paused and took a deep breath. "Those records of Corvis H40 dated back to the seventies, right?"
"Yeah," Suki said.
"Headmaster and Nurse said that the Chemica Desin was being used by Headmaster 1971 and they were on the opposite side as him..." Ian said.
"So Headmaster 1971 makes a lot of students sick, and some other side-- which involved the students takes over," Gabe said. The last time Ian had seen him this engaged, he was trying to figure out pendulums for his physics make up project.
"And by the time Coach is a student here they're trying to chemically enhance students' abilities," C.J. added, frowning.
"So all that fighting and it doesn't really do anything." Suki sat, eying the board critically, as if it had personally affronted her.
"Just like the Russian revolution," Gabe said.
The other three turned to stare at him.
"Weren't any of you paying attention to Coach History this afternoon?" Gabe asked, cheeks coloring slightly. "They started out with Czar Nicholas and ended up with the Bolsheviks. Full circle."
"With some major changes," Ian muttered. He raked a hand through his hair. "Hence the same methods with different intentions."
"But why?" Gabe said, drumming his fingers on the table. "Nurse told you that the Headmaster in 1971 thought that with Chemica Desin there wouldn't be a need for the school anymore."
"So Headmaster 1971 was trying to contain people with abilities." Suki frowned, as if this were a personal affront. "And the other group wanted to train people like us, so they took over. But for what? For our own good? For their own purposes?" She shuddered.
"But their own purposes for who?" Ian asked. "The U.S. government? Another country? Sato Systems?" The moment the words were out of his mouth, Ian wished he hadn't said them, Suki flinched at the name of her father's company and sat down, flipping idly through her textbook. "Some other company?"
He was met with silence.
Then his PDA beeped.
"What's that?" Gabe asked.
"A reminder not to wait for the last minute to read Dr. Jekyll." Ian picked up the book, secretly relieved that he could focus on homework for awhile instead. "If Mr. Hyde is a student at Tower Prep, I don't want to know."
"Why can't Literature ever assign something that doesn't put me to sleep?" C.J. asked half an hour later, pushing the book away, and folding her arms on the table in its place. She laid her head on them and yawned.
"Because the only books that don't put you to sleep are about dark, broody guys pretending to be vampires to cover up their kinky addiction to blood," Gabe said grumpily. He snapped his fingers. "I know! Why don't you guys ask Literature if we can read Dracula next. That way you guys could read about vampires for school."
Ian chuckled. "They don't want real vampires, they want broody, misunderstood, romantic vampires. They're very different. And sparkly." He ducked as Suki sent a wadded up sheet of paper sailing at his head. "Come on, Suk, you know I think you two are awesome, I'd just rather not let you pick out my next book."
C.J. stuck her tongue out at him.
"Do you think Literature would let us?" Suki mused. "Pick out our next reading assignment, I mean."
Ian flipped to the front of his copy of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. "They must use these books for all the classes, look at all the names." Ian would have given anything for access to Facebook right then--it would be easy enough to see if he could get someone who was no longer there to talk to them about leaving Tower Prep.
"And they're all classics," Gabe said, wearily. "Have you noticed? Old classics for literature. All our textbooks are either written by the teachers or public domain and specially printed for Tower Prep, but why?"
"They spent the book money on buffer equipment?" Suki joked weakly--the smile didn't reach her eyes.
"There's a very specific curriculum," Ian said.
"I call book titles." Gabe took out a fresh sheet of paper, and started writing the titles of books they had been assigned.
"Biology and chemistry," Ian said, following suit.
"History," C.J. added, turning a page in her spiral notebook.
"Physics and engineering," Suki called, perking up a bit.
Ian doubled his resolve to figure out enough mysteries of Tower Prep and escape; Suki shouldn't be living for physics.
"Woodshop and art are part of history?" Gabe asked as C.J. tacked her list to the "What we know" board. He was frowning.
"No but they're part of the curriculum," C.J. said. She jabbed at Gabe playfully. "Remember how bent out of shape Headmaster got when Ian asked why we were taking art?"
"What do you see?" Suki asked looking at the board.
"A well rounded schedule that would get us into college?" Ian asked, not believing it even as he said it.
"How abilities work." Suki picked up a pink highlighter and highlighting certain topics in each subject.
"Power corrupts." Gabe highlighted other topics in yellow, including the history units on dictators and books like The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Island of Dr. Moreau.
"Headmaster 1971 needed to read Dr. Moreau," Ian said, trying to suppress a shudder. He was just glad that Nurse had been able to synthesize a cure for the new version of Chemica Desin. He felt kind of sick just thinking about it.
"So did whoever made Corvis H40," C.J. added.
"Seriously, could you imagine that guy who has to both read and repeat things at the same speed if his powers pumped out of control?" Gabe shuddered.
Ian couldn't help thinking that Gabe was thinking about what would happen if his hypersuasion was out of control: Gabe would likely lose all of his friends if he was using hypersuasion on them constantly.
"Maybe that's why it made the curriculum," Gabe said. "Because of what happened here. I mean, Coach and Headmaster were each around when at least one of those chemicals are being used, maybe they suggested it to Literature."
"Or maybe Literature went here too," Ian said. "For all we know, it's not just Headmaster, Coach, and Nurse, it's the entire faculty. Nurse was student faculty, maybe all the teachers went here, or maybe..." Ian stopped, not wanting to think about the fact that maybe one purpose of Tower Prep was to produce teachers for Tower Prep; maybe some people never got to leave.
"Maybe we could ask," C.J. suggested, shifting in her seat.
"What, just march up to all the teachers and ask them if they used to go here?" Gabe asked. He was fighting a laugh. "That would go over well."
Ian looked at them all thoughtfully. "Not if we out and out ask them, but there might be another way..."
"Like what?" Gabe asked.
"Career paths," Ian said. "I mean, they acknowledge we're here to prepare for our futures; they want us to think about it, and if I have questions, I have to ask someone."
"It's not like you'd go up and just ask Headmaster or Nurse..." Gabe said.
"No," Ian said. "I can't ask Headmaster or Nurse."
* * *
The next day, Ian ducked one of Coach's easier blows, sweeping his feet from under him. He debated, briefly, sitting on Coach and trying to make him talk, but decided that was probably a more effective way of going to the West campus than in actually getting any information. Instead he backed off, offering Coach a hand up.
"What are you planning, Ian?" Coach asked, crossing his arms.
"I just had a question, and I wasn't sure how to ask it."
Coach smirked. "Since when were you afraid of asking me questions?"
"What happens after Tower Prep? I mean, are we accredited, can we go to college? Do we disappear as seniors and wake up in the middle of Sato Systems or some other government compound or what?"
"You graduate," Coach said.
"And then what?" Ian asked, arms spread wide. "Come back here and teach a new group of students..."
"You need a college degree to teach at Tower Prep, even if you're going to be a coach," Coach replied.
"Will recognize your Tower Prep diploma," Coach said. "Any other concerns?"
"Why'd you decide to teach here?" Ian blurted, hoping to at least get that reassurance.
"That's kind of personal, Ian," Coach said, "but I assure you I did choose to teach here. It's a highly competitive position, in fact, there are usually a large number of applicants for any open position."
"Do I want to ask how you advertise?" Ian asked. "I mean, I wouldn't think it would be on Monster.com or something."
"In the Tower Prep alumni magazine, Ian," Coach said. "You'd be surprised how many people want to give back to Tower Prep. Besides, with enough of you having unusual abilities that could be turned to less than honorable purposes, it helps if new teachers have abilities so they believe the dossiers on what you can do."
An instant before he did it, Ian knew Coach was about to throw a jab at him to start sparring again, Ian ducked, sweeping out Coach's legs again.
Coach sprang up. "Nice, Archer, but that's still enough questions for today."
"Thanks, Coach," Ian said.
* * *
For a moment after Ian repeated the conversation later that evening, Suki and Gabe gaped at him like hungry koi.
"People are lining up to come back here?" Suki asked once she recovered.
Gabe shook his head. "Those must be some really good benefits." He spilled onto one of the observatory's couches. "To be worth teaching way out in the middle of nowhere."
"Or really good pay," Suki said. She sighed, wistfully. "Hopefully staff and faculty get access to e-mail and Amazon at least. I mean, can you imagine a job where you're as out of touch as we are? We've probably missed at least one Lynn Snebbin book by now."
"I wonder if there's a faculty TV somewhere," Ian added. "I mean, some of it really sucked, but there's other things I want to know how they end.".
"Phone calls." C.J. stared off into space then, as if her mind had drifted elsewhere.
"Maybe it's not just History who can wander out of bounds without being bugged by the gnomes," Gabe suggested. "I mean, would you take a job when you don't get any time off?"
"Well, the gnomes are students, maybe if they bug the teachers, they have to go to the West Campus," Suki joked.
"I wonder what they bribe them with to come back here," Ian said. "Private boats? Millions of dollars?"
"Maybe they just want to give back to Tower Prep?" C.J. asked.
The other three stared at her. Ian's mouth hung open.
C.J. shrugged. "Just because we're dying to get out of here doesn't mean everyone is."
"I thought that was the definition of high school," Gabe said.
Ian's PDA beeped.
"That auto reminder thing's as bad as Whisper!" Gabe said.
"Still better than flunking literature," Ian replied, picking up his copy of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
"True dat," Gabe said, doing likewise.
"At least we know if we don't get out of here, we'll leave when we graduate," C.J. said philosophically. She opened her book as well.
For awhile, the only sound in the observatory was that of turning pages.