There was no wake-up buzzer on Saturdays, but the excitement of the previous night carried over into the morning, nudging Lisa out of bed well before her usual weekend rising time of seven o'clock. Dressing quickly, she headed downstairs to the dining room. Despite the hour, a reasonable number of others were already there, most of them the younger boys and girls who always woke up with the sun no matter what the calendar said. Taking her tray to her table, she was mildly annoyed to find a yellow triangle waiting there for her.
Someone had probably seen that illegal balcony takeoff, she decided, and had complained loudly enough for Gavra to feel she had to take action. From Lisa's point of view the fingering couldn't have come at a worse time—along with a minor loss of points, the usual punishment for such infractions usually included one or more weekends confined to the hive. If Gavra hit her with that one, she would have to postpone her trip to the library until after work on Nultday at the earliest. Hurrying through her breakfast, she went to the Senior's office, bracing herself for the worst.
And was pleasantly surprised. "Ah; Lisa," Gavra smiled as the preteen knocked tentatively at the open door. "Come in—you're up earlier than I'd expected. I wondered if you'd help me welcome a new child this morning. She's coming in with her parents about eight."
Relief washed through Lisa. It was still over half an hour before eight, and it could easily cost the rest of the morning to check a newcomer into the hive, especially if she was as scared as children often were about leaving their parents. But when she compared the task to the fate she'd been contemplating, Lisa couldn't help but feel she'd been let off easily. "Sure, I'd be happy to. Main entrance?"
"Yes," Gavra nodded. "Thanks very much—and sorry about the short notice."
Half an hour wasn't really long enough to do anything worthwhile, but the hive game rooms were always a good place to kill a little time, so Lisa wandered down to see what was going on there. She arrived to find a scene of barely controlled pandemonium, with a group of Sevens having taken over the center of the main gym room for an exuberant game of spinwheel, while some Fives and Sixes cheered from the sidelines and tried to imitate the intricate motions with their own toys. The two preteens in charge—Tens, by their obvious inexperience—seemed to have conceded the center to the Sevens and were instead concentrating on making sure the younger kids didn't get run down or otherwise hurt. They looked so helpless—and so relieved that assistance had arrived—that Lisa changed her original plans and spent the entire half hour helping to calm the boisterous Sevens and restore order. Overseeing Saturday morning happy hole is not one of the things I'm going to miss about the hive, she thought wryly as she hurried through the halls toward the front entrance. She hoped the new girl's family was late; she'd cut her time a little too closely.
They weren't late, as it happened, but since Gavra was still welcoming them as Lisa arrived, they apparently hadn't been too far ahead of her. "Ah, here she is," Gavra said as Lisa tried to trot up with dignity. "This is Lisa Duncan, one of our preteens. Lisa, this is Jessy Larz and her parents."
"Pleased to meet you," Lisa nodded to the adults as she dropped into a crouch to put herself at the child's eye level. "Hi, Jessy. How are you?"
The little girl didn't answer. Tightening her grip on her mother's hand, she regarded Lisa with wide, unblinking eyes. "My name's Lisa," the preteen went on cheerfully, ignoring the other's silence. "Is Jessy short for Jessica?"
"Can you say yes, Jessy?" her mother murmured.
"Uh-huh," Jessy said reluctantly.
"That's a nice name," Lisa said, smiling her best. "And you're a very pretty girl; did you know that?"
"Uh-huh," she said, sounding more confident this time.
The adults chuckled, and Lisa sensed a slight lowering of the child's barriers. Gavra apparently saw it, too, and moved quickly to take advantage of the thaw. "Why don't we all go to the testing room now?" she suggested. "After that we'll show you some of the facilities Dayspring has to offer."
"Oh, that'll be fun!" Lisa exclaimed to Jessy. "We've got a lot of neat toys and games here to play with." She stood up and offered her hand to the child. With only a brief hesitation she took it; and although she also kept a firm grip on her mother's hand during the short walk, Lisa decided to consider it a victory.
When they reached the testing room, however, all remaining resistance crumbled. For a moment Jessy stared in amazement at the array of toys set out there; then, with a sort of happy bleat, she ran forward.
"Jessy—" her mother began warningly.
"It's all right," Gavra interrupted her. "The toys are there for her to play with. If you'll both just step over here to the desk, there are some forms we have to fill out."
The adults disappeared into a corner together as Lisa went over to where Jessy was shaking a clear plastic ball full of colorful butterflies, each of which rang like a small bell when it moved. Lisa showed her how she could use her budding teekay ability to move them individually inside their ball and make a tune. From her delighted reaction it was clear Jessy had never thought about teeking through solid objects before, and she instantly went on a grand tour of the testing room trying out her new trick on everything imaginable. It only worked when she could see through the outer object to the one she wanted to move, of course, but there were enough toys like that scattered around to keep her from becoming discouraged. By the time Gavra was ready to begin the tests, Jessy was chattering away nonstop.
The standard series of teekay tests, designed to look as much like play as possible, did nothing to bruise Jessy's new cheerfulness. Afterward, Gavra led them all on the promised tour of the game and play rooms, the dining room, and a section of the younger girls' living quarters. The adults seemed impressed; Jessy's father, particularly, kept pointing out things the hives of his own youth hadn't had.
Finally, back in the testing room, Gavra invited questions. "Would it be possible for us to stay here for a few days, until Jessy gets accustomed to the place?" Mrs. Larz asked, almost timidly. "I understand that that's allowed."
"Well, yes," Gavra said, and Lisa prepared herself for a long lecture. One of the few official rules Gavra was absolutely dead set against was "the lingering, painful good-bye," as she often called it. "However, there are some aspects of that which I'd like to discuss with you," she continued. "Lisa, would you mind showing Jessy around for a while longer?"
"Sure, Gavra." Fortunately, Lisa had long ago hit on a way to keep children occupied for long periods of time. "Jessy, have you ever seen what Barona looks like from the sky?"
Jessy's eyes lit up. "You mean—flying? But I can't do that yet."
"You don't need to, 'cause I'll be carrying you. Come on; you're going to love it."
And love it she did. From her gasp of wonder at takeoff to their first wet pass through a low-lying cloud, the little girl was entranced, alternately looking around in awed silence and excitedly pointing out brand-new discoveries. For her part, Lisa found herself caught up in the child's fascination, able to see with some of her same delight things that she had stopped noticing years ago. It was like being a child again herself.
They flew around over Barona for a long time, until the rush of Jessy's excitement began to wane a bit. Then, dropping to just above the city's tallest buildings, Lisa unobtrusively began Jessy's first lessons in aerial navigation. "Okay, now the first thing you'll need to recognize is the hive—it's that building there, the one with two towers and the fenced-in area behind it. Over there is the city building—that's where the mayor works and where the police are; that star near the top always means police. Right below us is the shopping area where you'll get to go sometimes—not by yourself, but with another preteen. See?—if you fly straight toward the city building from the hive you'll come right here."
"Uh-huh." Jessy squirmed abruptly in Lisa's arms, a sure sign that she was getting restless. That posed no physical danger, of course; Lisa's teekay was holding the child as securely as batling's talons. But like most Fives, Jessy was bursting with energy, and Lisa preferred that she expend it at ground level. They could drop down to the shopping center, perhaps, and Lisa could show her how to tell what each of the stores sold by the picture in the window. Or else they could walk around the city's business area and look at the tall buildings, or—
Lisa had a flash of pure genius. "Jessy," she said, turning smoothly and heading toward a spot north of the city building, "have you ever been to the library?"
Jessy hadn't; and she was delighted. She had, of course, seen TVs and tape players before—though the headphones connected to the latter seemed new to her—but the flashing lights of the video games were a source of instant fascination. She ran back and forth among the machines, standing on tiptoe to see over players' shoulders, occasionally trying to touch the images or teek them through the screens, and generally making a minor nuisance of herself. The preteens playing the machines, most of whom had probably fled the game rooms at their hives for the express purpose of getting away from younger kids, were not inclined to be patient, and after a few minutes Lisa corralled her young charge and took her upstairs to the second floor. Much of that level was taken up by nature exhibits, and Jessy wandered among them for nearly twenty minutes, stopping by each exhibit and listening to part of its accompanying information tape before moving on to the next. The exhibits ranged from dioramas of Tigris's native plants and animals to cages housing small, furry animals, both earthstock and native; and as she watched Jessy's exploration, Lisa was again reminded of her own girlhood. She could still spend hours here, watching the gerbils and furheads in their cages and imagining what it must be like for them in the wild. Today, though, her mood was more one of impatience than interest as she waited for Jessy's excitement to wane.
Finally, she couldn't wait any longer. Soon they would have to head back to the hive. "Jessy, there's one more place I want to show you," she said, dropping to one knee beside Jessy and the ant farm she was studying.
"Do I have to?" Jessy asked plaintively, her eyes not leaving the scurrying insects.
"Yes," Lisa said. Don't worry, you'll be able to come here again. But I want to show you what the library is mostly for."
Reluctantly, Jessy pried herself away from the display and followed Lisa up one more flight of stairs.
It was like traveling from the hive to the city building in an instant. Suddenly, everything from the heavy wooden chairs and tables to the quiet colors and quieter footsteps labeled the room as adult. Jessy froze just inside the doorway, and even Lisa—who had known what to expect—felt a strange reluctance to go any further. But she was determined, and taking Jessy's hand she forced herself to walk toward the tall shelves she could see off to the right.
It wasn't an easy trip. They first had to pass by a tall desk, from behind which an even taller librarian gazed down at them, then they walked through a lounge area where several adults and a couple of teens sat with books. Lisa could almost feel their eyes on the back of her head as she and Jessy passed, and she sighed with relief when they finally reached the shelves and ducked into the space between two of them, out of sight of the adults.
Jessy looked up at the shelves, packed solidly with books from floor to ceiling. "What are those?" she asked, sounding awed.
"They're books," Lisa told her, pulling one out at random and carefully opening it. Neat lines of black letters on white paper stared back at her. "You see, when you get to be a teen and go to school, you'll learn how to read these. You can find out things from them." Gazing at the page, she looked for the handful of letters she knew. They were there, certainly—but in so many combinations!
"Can I hold it?" Jessy asked, and Lisa felt a teekay tug on the book.
Automatically, she countered with her own teekay. "No, Jessy," she said, leafing through the pages in hopes of finding pictures that might give her a clue as to what the words might be.
"I want it," Jessy insisted.
"May I help you?"
Startled, Lisa looked up as the tall woman who'd been behind the front counter came down the aisle toward them. Her lips held a pleasant smile, but there was something in her eyes that reminded Lisa of the storm cloud she'd had to pull a Nine out of a year ago. "N-no, not really, thank you," she managed. "I was just showing Jessy what books are."
"I see. Hello, Jessy," the adult said, and Lisa thought her smile a little more genuine this time. Stooping beside the girl, she deftly plucked the book from Lisa's hand and held it open in front of her. "See, Jessy, this is writing. When you grow up you'll learn how to understand what this says."
Jessy reached for the book, but the librarian held it back. No, no, you mustn't touch," she said firmly. "These are very valuable—some of the last books made from the big spaceship's records before the machines were destroyed in the Lost Generation. They're very durable—much more so than the books printed today—but they can be damaged if they're mishandled. That's why we don't allow children or kids to touch them. Do you understand?"
Whether she understood or not, it was clear Jessy wasn't about to buck such heavy adult pressure. "Uh-huh," she muttered.
"That's a good girl. Don't worry; you'll be able to look at the books all you want when you grow up." She shifted her gaze to Lisa. "Was there anything else you wanted?"
"Uh..." Lisa's tongue locked awkwardly against the automatic no that had tried to come out. "I... is it allowed for preteens to take books out of the library? I'd be very careful with it."
The smile slipped a bit. "I'm sorry, but we can't allow that. But if you really want to look at them, you can do so here, out in the reading area." She gestured in the direction of the lounge chairs they'd passed through on their way in.
"Oh. I—thank you." Lisa swallowed hard, feeling a shiver run down her back. To actually sit there with all those disapproving adult stares on her... "I guess we'd better be getting back, Jessy," she said, taking the little girl's hand and mentally bracing herself to pass among the readers again. "Say thank you to the nice lady.
"Thank you," Jessy murmured.
"I think you'll find the library's first two floors more interesting to you," the librarian said as she walked them to the door. "In the future you'd probably do better to stay down there."
It wasn't until they were flying above Barona again that Lisa was finally able to relax. One thing, at least, was clear: she was not going to be able to learn reading in the library. In fact, it was likely to be a long time before she even ventured into the building again.
But she wasn't yet prepared to give up. There had to be other places she could get books from, places that wouldn't be so hostile toward her. The librarian had said that books were being made, possibly even in Barona... but Lisa had never seen any store that sold them. She could, of course, search the whole city in her spare time, but even if she found such a place, she probably wouldn't be allowed to buy a book there. Preteens weren't given actual bills but could buy things only at certain specially marked stores in town by charging the purchase to their hives. It didn't seem likely that any bookseller she found would have the blue hive symbol in its window.
What she needed, really, was a person to guide her around the problems she was running into. Someone who would be sympathetic to her ambition, perhaps a teacher from one of Barona's introductory schools or even the university; someone who could break these unspoken rules—
Or someone who could get around them.
"Hey, we're going faster!" Jessy said. "Whee!"
"Yes—we have to get back before your parents start to worry about you," Lisa told her. She didn't add that she was suddenly in a hurry to get back herself, to start asking some careful questions. Maybe—just maybe—she had the answer.