I'd half expected the building to be locked up, it being so late, but it wasn't, although it seemed to be deserted. I entered and went straight to the lecture hall. It was empty, but I called out nonetheless. There was no answer, so I went behind the lectern and through the doorway into the storage area. No one there either.
I left and tried the next door along the corridor, which bore a plate identifying it as 'Cybernetics Laboratory Alpha'. It didn't open as I approached. Further investigation proved that it was locked up for the night. Oh, well. I'd just have to wait until morning, so I made my way back towards the entrance. On the way, though, I heard voices so diverted towards them instead.
The corridor turned to the left. I stopped and peered around it just in time to see two people disappear through a door at the far end. I scuttled after them, still incensed at the theft of my hairbrush, but ground to a halt at a door marked 'Doctor Steven Firth, Director of Cybernetics and Robotics'.
I gazed at it blankly. When it whooshed open of its own accord, I nearly jumped out of my skin, but found I had stepped inside before I had even considered it.
The door closed quietly behind me, and I found myself alone in a huge office that housed a conference table and chairs, as well as Steven Firth's own desk and seat. A row of large, brown boxes were lined up on the conference table, but I didn't question them further. I had spied my hairbrush, taking pride of place in the centre of Steven Firth's desk.
I strode up to it and stared at it. It looked almost ceremonial, the way it had been placed in the dead centre of the blotter, its edge parallel with the edge of the desk. But it was MY hairbrush, so I snatched it up, turned swiftly and began to make my exit, but stopped. Something had caught my eye.
The boxes on the table were made of cardboard substitute but were styled like the old-fashioned ones, with flaps that folded down to seal them. They hadn't been secured though, so the flaps were only half shut, and from underneath one of the boxes flaps, I could see vivid blue—and I swear it had sequins on it!
Curiosity ... and dread ... filled me as I approached the box and pulled the flaps open. Inside, neatly folded was Lizzy's beautiful blue gown. I reached out and stroked it, memories of Lizzy singing at Bejazzled rushing back to me and filling me with sadness.
I lifted the corner of the dress and found another one beneath it. In fact the box was full of all of Lizzy's dresses. The box next to it contained her shoes, and the one beside that various bags and shawls. The last box contained her study materials.
My mind began to race. If Lizzy had gone back home, why wouldn't she take her stuff with her? If it was simply a case that they were going to be sent on to her later, why hadn't that been done already?
Suddenly, I heard voices and panicked. I shouldn't be there. I had to disappear, so I ran back to Steven Firth's desk at the end of the room and ducked beneath it. The voices grew louder as I sat huddled, my mind madly turning things over and over, clutching my hairbrush to my chest.
The hairbrush! If they missed it, they'd know I was there!
Quickly I leaned out from my hidey hole and place my hairbrush back on Steven's blotter, taking great care to line it up as he had done, and then I ducked back under the desk, and just in time.
"I plan to do the transfer on Friday," said Steven.
"What if it doesn't work?" replied a second voice, a woman's, as she slammed her stuff onto the table.
"Nothing lost. If we successfully transfer the data from Alpha-B9's positronic data storage unit into the backup unit, wipe it and then do a full restore and find its characteristics are retained then we have achieved our objective. If, on the other hand, Alpha-B9 ends up as nothing more than a standard IT unit, we're just back where we were before we animated it ... and we know we can recreate Alpha-B9."
"True," sighed the woman. "It just seems a little heartless. I quite liked Alpha-B9."
"Good grief! Is that the time? Come along, we'll be late for the Academy Board meeting at this rate."
There was a certain amount of scurrying and scuttling as one of the pair collected whatever they needed for the meeting and then they left the room. I, meanwhile, remained under the desk, thinking—until it dawned on me that they'd be locking up the building and then I'd be stuck in there for the night!
Quickly, I pulled myself out from under the desk and ran towards the door. As I passed the boxes, though, I stopped, reached into the one that held Lizzy's datapads and educational materials and pulled out her personal pad before I fled.
It took the minimum of stealth to get past Firth and his friend. They both went into the lecture hall, so I shot past and out of the front door as quickly as possible. They were hot on my heels though, so I had to dive into a bed of hydrangeas to avoid them. God help me if Boothby ever found me out!
My heart was pounding furiously in my chest as I heard the two pass me by. What was I doing? What was I thinking? I had no idea. All I knew was that Lizzy's datapad was more important than my hairbrush!