Get caught up now
Tuesday, AC April 11
Godfrey walked with Mason into the Administration building. It was just the same as any other building on the station, square and built for efficiency, not beauty. But for a moment Godfrey felt like he was climbing the old stone steps of his hometown courthouse, worn smooth by the feet of guilty and innocent alike. He shook himself, trying to remember that he wasn’t a teenage boy anymore.
“You’ll be fine,” Godfrey said, “There’s no way they can ban you.”
“That’s not true. I’m sure that there is a way for them to ban me. And I’m sure that they’ll find it if they want to,” Mason replied.
They walked into the waiting room. Mason went to the receptionist’s desk to ask where they should go. The bored looking young man tapped on his screen and pointed them down the hall.
“Thanks for coming with me,” Mason said.
“No problem,” Godfrey said. Then the words spilled out of his mouth before he could stop them. “Just state your case plainly, stick to the facts. Getting emotional won’t help anyone.”
He could feel his father’s breath on every word. He shook his head. “I’m sorry. That’s what my dad said to me before my trial.”
“What did you have a trial for?” Mason asked, “Did you kill someone?”
Godfrey chuckled. “Almost,” he said.
“Anyway, I’m not worried. I’m not guilty,” Mason said.
Godfrey didn’t want to be the one to tell him that innocence wasn’t always enough to protect someone.
They found the meeting room, empty. There was a long table in the front with three chairs behind it. One chair sat in front of the table. Neither Mason or Godfrey wanted to sit down. They paced the room quietly. Godfrey felt as though a weight was resting on his chest.
“Who’s with April?” he asked, trying to talk over the quiet.
“Joyce and Patty took her up to the barracks,” Mason said, “I didn’t want to risk anything, not after the break-in. I can’t wait for Sennett to get back.”
“No doubt,” Godfrey said.
“I wish she’d stop-,” Mason stuttered, then bit his lip.
“Wish she’d stop what?” Godfrey asked.
Mason crossed his arms over his chest. “I wish she’d stop running off to be a hero.”
The door opened and Dean Connie Graham came in with Dr. Oswald. “Mr. Anders, you’re unexpected,” she said, smiling.
“It’s good to see you, Dean,” Godfrey said, “How have you been?”
“Better,” the Dean said, nodding.
“I’m sorry Connie, but Mr. Anders shouldn’t be here,” Dr. Oswald said gently, “This doesn’t have anything to do with him.”
“That’s a shame because I’m not leaving,” Godfrey said.
“Dean, I’m permitted to have a parent or guardian with me,” Mason said, “My guardian’s not on the station right now. I don’t see why Godfrey can’t stand in.”
“You’re over the age of eighteen, young man, I don’t have to allow anyone in here,” Dean Graham said, “But I can’t imagine it’s going to hurt anything to have Mr. Anders here, Doctor. So long as he has a seat and stays quiet.”
Dr. Oswald gave a gentle shake of her head. “I’m afraid this is exactly what I was worried about,” she sighed, “You’re too close to the Montgomery family. You’re giving Mason special treatment.”
“I don’t think allowing a witness is special treatment,” Dean Graham said, her smile turning sour.
“Unless it’s a sign of things to come, which I fear it is,” Dr. Oswald said. She casually turned to the screen on the wall and tapped it.
There was an older woman with thin, stern lips and bristling eyebrows. She gave the room a derisive look, as though irritated to be on this call.
“Supervisor Hollard,” Dean Graham said, folding her hands in front of her. “I hope Dr. Oswald didn’t bother you about this small matter.”
“Accusations of plagiarism are not small matters, Dean Graham,” Supervisor Hollard said, folding her hands on her desk. “Especially when the student in question is already making waves in the scientific community. Accusations like this suggest that the rest of his work might not be legitimate.”
Mason stared at the woman. “I’m not a thief,” he said, “My school work is my own, and so are my experiments.”
“Supervisor Hollard, I think I know you,” Godfrey said.
“It is possible,” she said, “I’ve served in the education field for a long time.”
“Yes, my wife has spoken of you,” Godfrey replied, “She said you tried to ban all non Earthians from attending school on the stations. She has her medical degree now, despite you.”
“That was a long time ago,” Supervisor Hollard said, color rising to her cheeks. “Times and opinions have changed.”
“I hope so,” Godfrey said.
“I’m sure that the supervisor has a busy schedule,” Dean Graham said quickly. “Let’s all take our seats.”
Mason sat on the chair. Dr. Oswald and Dean Graham took seats at the table. Godfrey stood next to Mason’s chair, feeling off balance.
“Now, Doctor,” Supervisor Hollard said, “You brought up the accusations against Mr. Montgomery. Why don’t you tell us why.”
“Thank you, Supervisor,” Dr. Oswald said. She began tapping on the table in front of her. Papers hovered above the screen so that everyone could see them.
“On the left is the paper that Mason handed into me on Monday. On the right is the paper that a student named Ashley Wilks handed in on Thursday of last week. As you can see, they are nearly identical.
“Obviously that struck me as strange. So I took a look at Mason’s work over the last year.”
The papers vanished, only to be replaced by many others.
“These are all papers and assignments from Mason, along with papers from his classmates. Mason’s are always turned in a day or two after those of his classmates, as you can see by the time stamp on each.”
She gave Godfrey a gentle smile. “You never attended classes here, Mr. Anders, so maybe you don’t know this. But each assignment must be turned in through our system, and each is time stamped when turned in. So, you see, there can’t be any other explanation.”
Dr. Oswald frowned. “I’m sorry to have to do this. I know I’m an outsider and Mason is a local son. But I couldn’t in good conscience ignore it.
“Now, I do think we should consider extenuating circumstances,” Dr. Oswald continued. “The young man is looking after a small girl. I think we all know how often Detective Montgomery is unable to care for her daughter. It can only be expected that a young man like Mason would have trouble keeping up with everything. I suggest that he be allowed to continue his studies. But he must accept some help. I’d advise some after school care for April, to give Mason time to focus on his studies.”
Godfrey tensed. It was devious of Oswald, a show of mercy that would give her unfettered access to April.
Mason stood, and walked up to the floating papers. He looked closely at them. “Who’s Norma Jean Baker?” he asked.
Dr. Oswald looked toward the supervisor, chuckling. “I would think you’d know since she’s one of the women you plagiarized.”
“Yeah, no. That person doesn’t exist, you made her up.” Mason said, squinting at the paper. He started tapping on the screen. “Anyone mind if I use this? No, I didn’t think anyone would. See, I’ve never heard of another student with that name. I haven’t heard of anyone on the station with that name, in fact.”
“Mr. Montgomery, there are a lot of people on this station,” Supervisor Hollard said.
“Sure are,” Mason replied, “and here are all their records.”
He gave the screen a final tap. Godfrey came closer to look. It was covered with small file folders.
“Marshal’s Howard and Joy asked me to help them put together a list of all the station residents. How long they’ve lived here and where they lived before. It’s all part of their effort to keep the station safe from terrorists.”
“Wait,” Dean Graham said, “here’s a Norma Jean Baker.” Godfrey’s heart sank.
“You’re right, Dean, sorry about that,” Mason said. He tapped on the file. A birth certificate opened, along with a picture of an infant girl with curly black hair and blue eyes. “Looks like she was born six months ago. She’s super cute, but I don’t think she’s writing thesis papers.”
“Young man,” Dr. Oswald said.
“I can look into more of these names,” Mason said brightly. “Here’s Samuel Clemons. He’s not real. Actually, I think that was Mark Twain’s real name. Oh, here’s Bill Preston. He died four years ago. Samantha Baker’s ninety-seven, I don’t think she’s up to taking classes right now. Do I need to keep going, or can I move onto my next piece of evidence against the good doctor?”
“You’re the one on trial, young man,” Supervisor Hollard said.
“But I shouldn’t be,” Mason said, “You see, I might still be a student, but I’m a registered Genetic Scientific Researcher. As such, I’m required to store all of my work in this shared cloud. That’s so we can all learn with each other and build from each others research. I keep everything there, including my school work. I feel comfortable doing these things because it’s a large group of people and we keep each other honest. Also, because everything put on there is time-stamped and saved with our ID numbers. So, let’s find my file, and look for all of those papers I’m accused of stealing.”
He tapped away, bringing up paper after paper. “See, I usually complete work before I turn it in, so I can double check it later and so my peers can look at it. It looks like each time one of these other students turned in an assignment it was on the same day I uploaded mine onto the shared cloud.”
Mason looked up at Dr. Oswald. “I’m guessing that’s how you mimicked the timestamp? You just removed my ID number and added these false name? That’s lazy, Doctor.”
“Excuse me,” Dr. Oswald snapped.
“Let me send this information to you, Supervisor,” Mason said, ignoring Dr. Oswald.
“Excuse me!” the doctor said again.
“No,” Supervisor Hollard said, holding up a finger. “Excuse me, please, while I read this.”
She considered her screen for a few minutes. “Dr. Oswald, I believe that you and I need to have a conversation.”
“If it turns out she stole my information from the cloud, and it’s pretty obvious that she did, she should really have her access revoked,” Mason said.
“Thank you, Mr. Montgomery,” Supervisor Hollard said tersely.
“I think you’re probably free to go,” Dean Graham said, “I’m sorry about this Mason.”
“I understand, Dean Graham,” Mason said, “Have a good day.”
He and Godfrey headed for the door.
“This is outrageous,” Dr. Oswald said, getting to her feet.
“Sit back down, Doctor,” Supervisor Hollard said, “We have much to discuss.”
Godfrey shot her a wicked grin before closing the door behind them.
Copyright © 2017 by Nicole C. Luttrell
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