Evy let herself into the dorm room and sealed the wall behind her before happily flopping on the bare-mattressed bed. She crossed her arms behind her head and smiled up at the ceiling. Professor Theis’ lecture had been delightful and there had been no sign of campus security throughout. She lingered outside the hall afterwards in hopes of catching him before he returned to his apartment. He seemed just as happy to see her as she was to be able to catch him once he finished greeting his other well-wishers. She’d had a feeling the evening of their initial, awkward meeting that he was a like-soul – now she was sure of it.
She pursed her lips as she pondered how quickly she had come to like and even trust him. While she thoroughly enjoyed her time here at the Academy, she had to admit that it got a bit lonely. She knew that most people she encountered liked her and were friendly enough. She was well aware of the efforts the other students had taken to help her evade security. But she didn’t want anyone to face consequences for shielding her, and so she made it a point to keep to herself. Was her willingness to befriend Theis simply because she was lonely?
She shook her head. No – she was certain now he felt it too – a kinship of spirit that would serve as the basis for a strong friendship no matter their differences. She noted that he had smiled when he saw her sitting in the lecture hall. When they spoke afterwards, he asked if she would like to help him with a project for his next lecture: building and testing a ballista. She still felt giddy.
She remained noncommittal, of course. She was always noncommittal. Keeping her schedule unpredictable was key to her continued freedom, and she hated the thought of telling someone she would be at a place and not show up. She told Theis her study group may be meeting at that time – they hadn’t pinned down yet when they would get together. Better she lie than break a promise to be there. But she had to admit to herself she really wanted to go – not just for the ballista, but because it meant more time with Theis.
◊ ◊ ◊
The address Theis gave her was outside the Academy grounds – a large building turned into a creative space for hire. The building lay on the other side of a park from the History Campus, so Evy enjoyed her stroll along the large pond that formed the centerpiece of the park. It was nice to walk around in the open, not having to look over her shoulder at every turn. She found the building and slipped in the door to find Theis already there.
He was scrolling through an list on his tablet, comparing it to the pile of supplies before him. When Evy walked in he turned to her with a delighted smile. “No study group today?”
She shook her head. “Nope. Amy has to make up a lab she missed when she broke her ankle so wasn’t able to meet today. My schedule’s clear, so I can stay however long you want to work on this.”
Theis smiled warmly and bowed his head slightly. “I’m honored to have your company, Miss Evy.” He walked over to a workbench and pressed a button on a control panel. Holographic plans for the ballista appeared over the bench. “I’ve confirmed that we have everything we need according to these plans. You may want to look them over to familiarize yourself with what we’ll be doing.” He beckoned her to control panel so she could page through the plans at her own pace.
Theis stepped back to allow Evy a bit of space and she turned her focus on the plans for a torsion ballista. She was just about to display the second page of the plans when a movement at the far end of the large, empty room caught her eye – the closing of a door and the approach of a man in a uniform.
“There is no need to worry, Miss Harris,” the man called. “I’d just like to talk with y…”
Before he could finish what he was saying Evy’s hand shot out towards the pile of wood for the ballista. The wood zipped through the air and quickly formed a small barrier around the guardian. She turned panicked eyes to Theis, prepared to stammer an apology for having to leave, but the words died in her mouth when she saw his expression.
“Evy, please just listen,” Theis tried to explain, but words were hard to find as he watched her bright blue eyes fill with tears.
“You set me up?” Her voice quavered with heartbreak. “I though… friends…”
“Evy, it isn’t like that.” Before he could say anything further, she dashed around him and out the door.