Shattered Glass 5

Ruth went through her chemical engineering class, memorizing everything, but not really there. When the teacher, who was speaking from a far away place, gave her the projects she had to do, she took five minutes sorting out the ones that were most similar, dividing them into pairs, and setting four of them up, one on each corner of the desk. Ignoring the students around her, she worked on each of them, planning the time spent on each of them to within twenty seconds. When one of her projects started to melt, she pulled the power source, jotted some notes down on the paper, disposed of it, took a minute to readjust her schedule, and went back to work, even more quickly on the three other projects.

“Ruth,” the teacher said, “you don't have to do them all at once.”

“I can do it, ma'am. I used to do seven projects at a time when I had a proper work station,” she said, moving around the desk without looking up.

“But these aren't exactly safe.”

“They're within the parameters. They'll last for 24 hours, more than long enough for the project, and they do everything required. If they had to last longer please tell me now. Do you want to make any changes? I can make them last longer and it will only add another fifteen minutes to the project. If you want them to be in the mid range of the parameters, that will take an extra twenty minutes, as I'll have to redo several steps,” she said quietly but firmly.

“No, you're not doing anything wrong. I'm just concerned that you could get hurt by pushing yourself so hard.”

“I can handle it, ma'am. I won't make many mistakes. I promise.”

“You can call me Ms. Merenis. You're not being graded for this, you should spend a bit of time getting to understand everything and seeing what the other students are doing.”

She looked over the projects, with the chemicals involved, leaving them incomplete overnight would be dangerous. “You want me to go slower and and look around the room, yes?”

“Yes,” Ms. Merenis said.

She quickly did some calculations in her head. “May I have three minutes?”

The teacher frowned in confusion. “Ok.”

She quickly dismantled different parts of the project, disposing of the chemicals safely, she began walking slowly around the room, studying every project and student closely. Those who had seen her take apart three projects that she'd spent over half the class making, without seeming to care, gave her very odd looks. The looks got worse as she didn't talk to or even seem to notice them, reading over their notes, and studying their projects as unobtrusively as possible. The UV band on her arm, was even more off putting, and a few students backed away when she came towards them.

Then she finally spoke. “Don't do that.”

“What?” the boy said, holding a wire. “I have to, it's part of the project.”

She shook her head. “It's wired wrong and won't handle the energy. It will catch fire.”

“Yeah right, it's perfect. I've been doing this stuff since I was ten,” he said, pushing her away and reaching out to put the wire in place again.

Ruth put her hand between the battery terminal and the wire. “You will hurt yourself!”

Ms. Merenis quickly came over, and carefully put herself between Ruth and the boy, nervously eying the UV armband. “Ruth please step back and explain why he can't attach the wire,” she said, very calmly but firmly.

“He has it wired wrong,” she pointed to the places. “If he runs power through it, it will overheat and catch fire.”

The teacher looked it over, nodding in agreement. “Marshall, she's right.

“Come on, how much can a UV know?” the boy demanded.

“She knows enough not to cause a fire. Take it apart and redo it,” Ms. Merenis said. “Good job Ruth, keep looking around.”

With no idea how to handle being complimented for her work, Ruth did as she was told, until the end of class when Ms. Merenis told her to see Dr. Bellows.

**

Going most of the day without eating wasn't easy for Ruth, especially after a few weeks of regular meals, but she had experienced it often enough, so she ignored her stomach and the headache as she entered Dr. Bellows office.

Rona looked up, her transparent face was streaked and when she saw the UV band on her Ruth's arm she started to cry. Dr. Bellows saw the band as well, and his face turned red with anger.

“Why are you wearing that?” he asked, not able to keep the anger out of his voice.

“Chief Delarose told me about it, I asked them to give it to me,” she explained.

“Why?”

“I'm dangerous. People should be warned about me.”

Dr. Bellows stroked his forehead. “That is for students who are truly dangerous. They've confiscated all your weapons, the worst you could do now is lightly bruise some students in a fight.”

She looked him right in the eye, “I want it. Everyone is telling me to make choices. I choose this!”

“Fine, let's drop this topic for now,” he said, taking a deep. “Please have a seat, Rona would like to ask you something.”

Ruth sat down staring at her hands, knowing what was going to happen. Rona was going to ask her to go away, she was scared of her and didn't want to be in the same room as her.

Blowing her nose, Rona seemed to get control of herself. “Why did you help me today? It only got you in trouble. Why was I worth it?” she asked quietly.

She stared at her hands for several minutes, not speaking. Not able to even think of the words, much less form them. There was too much screaming and crying in her mind. Finally looking up, a look of hopelessness etched so deep into her face she was sure it would still be there on judgment day, she saw Rona was crying again, her every feature a match for the misery and torment she'd felt so often. The words came.

“I could. I could finally help someone,” she said with a smile that vanished almost instantly. “Wendy Cox, Trevor Mason, Cindy Mason, killed and tortured in front of me when I could have, should have, done something. Alex Anderson, Tamara Reeds, Thessaly Meyer, Michael Roberts, and fourteen more people I know by name, at the Goodkind bank, killed as I was forced to watch to show me what would happen the next time I defied him in any way. Nicole O'Hara, three years old, the first person killed in Sudbury when he attacked with the armour I repaired for him, so he could draw out Grinder and steal his jetpack. Twenty three people died then. I didn't know when I fixed it what he was going to do, if I had I'd have slit my own throat. I couldn't even save Isaac. I just drew out his torment, stealing everything from him.”

The smile came back. “You, I could save. I could stop your hurting. So I did. And I could show Belle what it was like being the victim. Maybe teach her a lesson so she won't hurt others. I had to do something horrible, but I helped you.”

“I'm not worth it!” Rona almost shouted.

She got to her feet and hugged Rona. “You are. You are. Some of us can't be saved. Don't deserve to be saved. But you do.”

“You don't know anything about me,” she said. “My Mom is on the run because of me, her best friend is in a coma. If Mom is seen by the MCO they'll shoot her on sight.”

“What did you do?”

“Got kidnapped. I couldn't get away, my maybe dad was going to sell me to rich people. Mom killed him. I should have tried harder, I just let them do anything they wanted. I didn't do anything except steal a phone!” Rona tried to say more, but was overcome by sobs.

Ruth didn't say anything, seeing a tiny bit of herself in the girl she considered a friend, hoped desperately was a friend, even though she didn't deserve one and would only bring pain to anyone close to her. She didn't have the strength to push Rona away like she should. So she let the younger girl cry herself out, like she had for over a week after she'd been freed.

Later she'd find the strength to be alone, when Rona was strong enough.

**

“What were you thinking putting her on the UV list?” Dr. Bellows demanded later that evening as he and Chief Delarose stood in Mrs. Carson's office.

“She is dangerous. I have a report of a student attacking someone with a knife that is very similar to her, she was ready to torture Belle. She didn't kill her but she was within a hair of it. More importantly she wanted it. Since we were both in agreement on it, it seemed the right thing to do,” Delarose said, just as angrily.

“You confiscated all of her weapons, how is she dangerous now?”

“I've seen a person kill someone with a spork. You have the will anything can be deadly. And we left her her PFG's, she has at least a dozen of them. So she's not at risk of the other ultraviolents seriously hurting her for the challenge.”

“Chief, I thought you were going to give her a month of detention helping out in Doyle. Where did the UV list come in?” Carson asked.

“I was trying to give her a little scare. With most kids it's a bucket of cold water that freaks them out. I had only explained half of it and she was thanking me for giving it to her.”

“She thinks she's personally responsible for over forty murdered people, and deserves to be punished. Of course she'll thank you for punishing her,” Dr. Bellows said.

“That is your area, my concern is for the security of the students, and she is a risk,” Delarose said. “Maybe not quite on the level of the other UV's, but if people are around her they should know that she could be dangerous. And don't worry about the security details, this is all unofficial. She gets the band, and personally talks to my nicest officer every Monday, but nothing is written down. Students and teachers know to handle her with care, she knows she did something wrong attacking Belle, but the moment she takes it off, it's off for good and only people who saw it will remember it.”

Dr. Bellows looked like he was about to say something everyone might regret, when Carson raised her hand. “Dr. Bellows, I realize this is not an ideal solution, but security is the Chiefs area. He's worried that she could be a danger, and I'm not going to undermine him. Also she did choose it, which her files say she has trouble doing. However, as soon as you can make her choose to take it off, she will be allowed to.”

Both men looked unhappy with the decision but nodded in agreement.



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