Liedecker Institute #5: Meet the Class Part 5

This entry is part 5 of 13 in the series Liedecker Institute Volume 1: Meet The Class

“See?” Kura said smugly. “This is really fun and you didn’t want to do it!”

She was poking Tammy teasingly in the ribs while the latter was hanging over the transparent railing of the skywalk above the zoo’s African savanna exhibit, watching the giraffes bent in seeming awkwardness to drink from the simulated river.

Tammy answered her with a smile and a weak attempt to bat Kura’s fingers away. “Okay, I’ll admit it; it’s been pretty fun. Right guys?” She called across the way to the trio of Phineas, Steampunk and Phil.

The two boys were arguing about whether or not it was a good idea to dis-include the savanna predators from the facsimile grassland with Phil being firmly against letting children see kill sites and Phineas insisting that it was educational. Steampunk was ignoring them to silently observe a herd of springbok.

Phil glanced up from his futile discussion to agree with her. “Yeah. I haven’t been to the zoo in years, but I’m glad I came today.”

“That’s because It know what’s fun better than anyone else.” Kura insisted, leaving the railing and jogging further down the skywalk. “Come on! I saw that they’ve got the baby rhino on display down this way!”

“Rhino?” Phil blinked. “The clone?”

“Latif.” Steampunk quietly disengaged herself from her viewing, “The first black rhinoceros born in captivity in more than fifty years, a composite clone created as part of the Windsong Foundations’s ongoing efforts. Born to a white rhinoceros at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, this this adorable visitor is on loan along with his mother Melate until April.”

Phineas squinted at her for a moment. “What a minute. You…” He turned to Phil and Tammy. “She just quoted the poster they have out front!”

“That is the information that was requested.” Steampunk informed him.

“She’s got you there.” Phil snickered.

“What are you guys waiting for? Come on!” Kura darted back up the track to give them an exasperated look. The group got moving again.

“Didn’t this place have a rhino that was stolen or something a while ago?” Phil asked, trotting along.

“I think I heard something about that.” Tammy said a bit too quickly.

“They guys that did it got a monkey too.” Phineas added. “An orangutan.”

“Orangutans are not monkeys.” Steampunk stated, “They are primates of the genus Pongo, family Hominidae.”

“Uh… okay.” The leafy teen shrugged.

“Who would want to steal a rhino and a mon—ape” Tammy wondered aloud.

“I’m more worried about who could do it.” Said Phil. “A zoo isn’t a bank or something, but those are some pretty big animals. You’d have to back a truck up to the pens or something.”

“Are you guys talking about something boring?” They had caught up to Kura, was was waiting impatiently at the exit back onto the brick walks of the zoo proper. The savanna simulation was actually built in a vast, deep pit, so the skywalk led out to the rest of the zoo’s ground level.

“You think an ape heist is boring?” Phineas asked her. His ember-like eyes flared with amusement.

“You guys are going to steal an ape?” Was Kura’s shocked response. “Where would you even keep it? And it’s cost like a million dollars buying all the bananas. And I bet the need all kinds of shots my cat needed five shots and he’s never been sick except needing to be fixed.”

She would have gone on if Tammy hadn’t waded into the tide of words. “Kura, whoa. We’re not going to steal an ape. We were just talking about someone else who did. Also a rhino!”

“Is it someone we got to school with?”

The others, minus Steampunk all glanced with each other. Phineas shrugged. “Nope, but I wouldn’t put it past Betty Yo want one to skin for pants or something.”

“Ew.” Phil screwed up his face.

“Heh.” Phineas put his arms behind his head and took a moment to soak up the sun. “Don’t be like that man, you know she’d be hot in monkey skin pants.”

“Orangutans are not monkeys…” Steampunk started, but Phil held up a hand to her. “He knows, Alice, but monkey is a funnier word that ape.”

She stared at him for a long, uncomfortable moment, then shifted that gaze to Phineas. “Why would you purposefully decide to use incorrect terminology?” What little emotion there was behind that question made it clear that it was an utterly foreign concept to her.

“Because it’s funny. He just told you.” Phineas nodded to Phil.

“It’s a fact!” Kura chirped. “Monkeys are just funny! Even the word is funny!”

Steampunk blinked at this, taking time to pare down her response to it’s most urgent component. “Why?”

“Because.” Kura stated without a second thought. “Just say the words; Ape, ape, ape. Kinda funny, but not funnier then monkey.”

This time, Steampunk didn’t miss a beat; she had been formulating her next question throughout the entire conversation. “But how do you quantify funniness? I was to understand that it is subjective.”

Kura made a face at her. “So what do you think is funny?”

She wasn’t ready for that question. Instead of saying anything, she cocked her head to the side inquisitively.

“You know…” Kura hooked a finger in either corner of her mouth and pulled while crossing her eyes and sticking out her tongue. “Fubby.” She wrinkled her nose at her new found speech impediment. “Fubby? Heh. Fubby! Bleh!”

While Steampunk only seemed more confused, Phineas and Tammy roared with laughter at Kura’s antics.

Cracking a grin himself, Phil gave Steampunk an apologetic look. “Don’t worry too much about it, Alice. It’s kind of hard to explain ‘funny’ it’s like explaining scary or exciting; you just fell it; it makes you want to laugh.” A frown crossed his face. “You… do know what laughing is, right.”

Steampunk ducked her head, drawing breath to deliver the definition.

“Uh… You don’t have to tell me.” He interrupted. “Just say yes, or know, or you could just nod or shake your head instead.”

“Yes.” She immediately looked uncomfortable at the truncated answer and quickly added, “I know what laughter is.” A few more moments of calculating and she continued. “Previous to my arrival at The Liedecker Institute, providing relevant data at intervals was required of me.”

“You know what I’m wondering?” Tammy asked, inadvertently stepping on what Steampunk was saying. She was too busy giving Phineas a disgusted look to notice. “How can you even think of Betty as hot when she’s such a raging bitch?”

“She’s right you know.” Phil added. “The bitchiness really reduces the hotness.”

The lights of Phineas’s eyes twinkled. “But the challenge makes up for it. You’ve never heard of the thrill of the chase?”

Kura rolled her eyes, for once deciding not to get into it again with Phineas.

Tammy’s disgust didn’t change. “Yeah, but think what you’re chasing. Do you really want that as your girlfriend even if you do get her?”

“Plus, isn’t she dating Hightower?” Phil pointed out.

“All part of the challenge.” Phineas bared his freakish teeth in a grin. “Really, what’s the point of going after a girl if it’s not fun?”

“I’d rather have a girl that I actually like.” Replied Phil. “And hopefully one that liked me.”

“Betty doesn’t like anyone!” Said Kura, just a bit too excited about that fact. “She doesn’t even really like Hightower.”

“Whatever.” Phineas shrugged and started walking again. “So let’s get back to Steampunk not knowing what ‘funny’ is.”

“I am aware of the definition of funny in this context:” Steampunk’s eyes darted to Phil for a moment, didn’t find what she was looking for, and she continued, “’providing fun; causing amusement or laughter…”

“Okay, I get it.” Phineas cut her off.

“You just implied that you didn’t.” It would have been a witty repost from anyone else, but she was being quite literal.

“Why don’t you go out with her?” Kura bounced up in down on her heels.

“Say what now?” The plant boy raised his leafy brow.

“You said you wanted a challenge and Rubber Girl would totally would be. Plus, we don’t hate her, so you could keep hanging out with us if you start going out with her.” The others couldn’t tell if she did it on purpose or not, but her shirt suddenly displayed a cheering smiley face with ‘YAY!’ in block letters below it.

“Kura, stop calling her Rubber Girl.” Tammy admonished her.

“But she needs a name!” Kura whined.

“She’s got one;” Phil said, making sure to stand off to the side of the entire affair, “Alice. Or Steampunk.”

“I meant a good name.” Said Kura, shaking her head and wrinkling her nose at both of the other girl’s names. “And since she wears that rubber thing all the time, it should be Rubber Girl.”

Evidentially, while she had no comment on being proposed as an object of Phineas’s affections, Steampunk felt the need to defend her costume, or at least explain it; “My regulator suit—”

“We know.” Phil said, stepping in in a literal sense to put him self in her path. She drew up short and took a few steps back, her face never registering that she was in any way startled. When she stopped, Phil spoke again. “Alice, seriously, you don’t have to define things or repeat stuff unless we ask. Sometimes we only act like we don’t know for…” He didn’t want to repeat the ‘funny’ conversation again. “…one reason or another.”

“Yeah.” Tammy said. “Just tell us what you’re thinking.”

“Well not everything you’re thinking.” Phineas laughed, “We’ve already got Kura for that.”

Instead of being insulted, Kura beamed at the attention. “That’s right!”

They all waited a long moment while Steampunk merely stared, not even her usual calculating gaze, but the far away stare of introspection. Finally, she took a moment to look each on of them in the eye.

“I will try.” She said. “Laurel Brant has instructed me to learn interaction from my classmates and if this will improve my ability to fulfill her request, I will do so.” Another pause. She was considering her new ‘say what you’re thinking’ directive. “I don’t know how long it will take to learn proper interaction.”

“Heh, no such thing.” Phineas said. “It’s just talking. There’s not like any rules to that.”

“That’s why you almost failed English last year.” Kura snickered.

“What he means is, it’s not an exact science.” Phil offered. “Just like funniness, you can’t really measure it and it’s different from person to person. Just talk about what you want to talk about.”

Her glassy stare told him that he hadn’t helped.

“How about this? Where else in the zoo do you want to see next?”

This time, she looked about, albeit slowly. “The rhinoceros enclosure.” She finally said. Kura made a high pitched, happy sound.

“Good.” Phil said, “So why do you think we should go there next?”

“It was where we were headed before this discussion started.” Steampunk reasoned. “It doesn’t make sense to deviate from our destination for the sake of this exercise. Additionally, Kura Akagi has been most vocal about seeing it since we arrived.”

Kura made another cheerful sound and her shirt animated, the cheering smiley’s mouth opening and closing.

Tammy shrugged. “Good enough for now, right, Phil?”

Phil blinked. That hadn’t been how he’d expected that to go at all. “Right?” He turned back to Steampunk and gave her a resolute nod. “We’ll work on it.”

“Hey, maybe you’ll learn something useful in school.” Phineas said. “That’ll be a change.”

“Doesn’t the school teach the traditional curriculum of Mathematics, Language, Geopolitics and the Sciences?” Steampunk looked mildly concerned, which, all things considered, Phil thought probably meant she was shocked.

“It’s another joke.” Tammy patted the other girl’s shoulder. “We’ll get to that.”

“Just stick with us, kid.” Phineas patted the other shoulder. “We’re your friends now.”

Unable to contain herself, Kura launched herself bodily at Steampunk. It was a good three yards between the two and Kura managed to glide the last five feet or so to throw her arms around Steampunk in a bear hug.

Steampunk didn’t move. Naturally, Kura took this ass acceptance and giggled happily as she jumped back, grabbed Steampunk’s hand and set off in a full out run toward the rhino house.

Phil and Tammy traded glances as the most stoic person either of them had ever known struggled to keep up with the living embodiment of a sugar high lest she be pulled to the ground.

Tammy grinned. “This is going to be one hell of a year.” She remarked before running after them.

End Meet the Class

Series Navigation<< Liedecker Institute #4: Meet the Class Part 4Liedecker Institute #6: Reflections in Steam Part 1 >>

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Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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