“How did you do, Theta?”
“Hmpt.” The young man walked down the hall of the Academy, surrounded by his classmates.
“Don’t tell me you failed,” Mortimer exclaimed. “You said you knew that experiment backwards and forwards.”
“I don’t know what happened,” his friend replied. “I was so sure of the results. It just didn’t work.”
“Don’t tell me the great Theta Sigma couldn’t make a simple pan-dimensional gateway open.” The dark-haired boy they passed as he leaned against the doorframe folded his arms over his chest. “You must be deeply ashamed. Mine, of course, worked brilliantly.”
“Wait a minute.” Theta stopped. “You didn’t...”
The boy laughed. “Didn’t what? Didn’t take you down a notch?”
“I worked for a week on that experiment!”
“You work too hard, Thete.”
“Come on, Theta.” Mortimer pulled at his friend’s arm, appalled by the tensed muscles, and the fist he was starting to make. “He’s not worth it.”
But the young man didn’t move. “I’ll be fine. Go to class.”
Mortimer reluctantly let go, and followed the others down the hallway.
“You know,” the boy laughed, “you could beat me into oblivion.”
“It’s what you deserve, Kosch.”
“You’d be expelled, and I’d be the poor victim of your violent outburst. Or we could go outside and commune with nature.”
“Go outside. Without a pass. And be expelled.”
Koschei took his arm. “Maybe. Only if we get caught.”
The young men lay on the crimson grass looking up at the amber sky. “This is your favourite place, isn’t it? Not in there, breathing the recycled air. Out here, the breeze licking at our faces.”
“Yes. It’s my favourite place. Which doesn’t mean we should spend all afternoon here.”
Koschei pointed upwards. “Out there, there’s so many worlds we’ll never see. Do you suppose the skies are black? Or red?”
“Or blue?” Sigma picked at the grass and sucked a blade between his teeth. “Or the grass green?”
“We’ll never know. Oh, we’ll read the books and hear the stories, but to see it for ourselves...”
“It could happen.”
“Oh, certainly. If we play by all the rules and pass all the tests. It could happen, a few centuries from now. We could see other worlds. But by then, will we care?”
“About my experiment....”
“Yes.” Koschei rolled to his side and looked at his friend. “I sabotaged your experiment, and I’m not sorry.”
“I don’t expect you to be.”
“Hmm,” he smiled. “You know me so well.”
“But it was a terrible thing to do.”
They lay under the warm sun, and before long both had drifted off. Sigma woke to find Koschei curled beside him. His hand lay in Sigma’s lap, and he shifted so the hand fell a little higher.
He realized that Koschei had woken. His big brown eyes met his gaze.
And Sigma jerked away. “We should go back. We’re going to get in trouble.”
“You go. It’s far too lovely a day to sit in class.” He whispered towards his retreating friend, “Coward.”
Sigma walked down the hall the next day. He waved at the gathering of his friends. “Morning.”
“So, what do you think about it?” Mortimer asked. “Did you know?”
“Oh, no. I warned him to go back inside. Who caught him?”
“Caught him?” Mortimer realized his friend was oblivious. “No, you don’t understand. Koschei stole a TARDIS, sometime last night. He’s gone.”
Sigma Theta sat on the edge of his bed. His study notes lay abandoned on his table.
“Why?” he sighed. “Why didn’t you ask? I would have come with you.”