Monday it was back to school as usual. Astrid gave Tomiko Ikeda her schedule, so that she could start planning a meeting for the Calculus III study group. She took notes in her other classes and was starving by the time the lunch period arrived. She sat down with her friends and dug into her meal, which consisted of a lamb chop, confit of salmon, gazpacho, watercress salad, and a chocolate raspberry crumble for dessert.
“Do you suppose we have visitors?” wondered Christopher. “This is a bit much, even for our lunchroom.”
“Stop complaining,” said Austin. “I’ll take your pork chop if you don’t want it.”
“It’s a lamb chop,” said Christopher.
“What do you mean, a lamb chop? They just call it that because it’s small, right? It’s not really part of a little lamb, right?”
“I’m afraid so,” said Bud.
Austin’s face turned pale and he jumped up and hurried from the quad.
“He’s so sensitive,” said Robot Valerie.
“Indeed,” said Christopher, nodding solemnly as he divided Austin’s food between himself and Bud.
“Did you know he would react that way?” asked Astrid.
“He once had a pet sheep,” said Bud. “It came up in conversation.”
In Ancient History, Mr. Hoffman announced the due date for their research assignment: the day before winter break began. This didn’t bother Astrid at all, as she was enjoying writing about the Sumerians far more than she had writing about The Last of the Mohicans. In American Lit, they finished up their discussion of that book, but as she was going out the door, Mr. Hall told the girl inventor that he needed to see her after school in his office. Wondering about it, but not really concerned, she spent the last hour climbing up the rock wall with Toby and Austin, the latter seemingly having regained some of the vigor lost at lunch.
After telling her friends about her visit to Mr. Hall and that she would probably go to her lab afterwards, Astrid said goodbye to them all and walked down to the English Department. When she reached Mr. Hall’s office, he directed her to a chair facing his desk, and he took a large leather desk chair behind it.
“First of all, Astrid,” began Mr. Hall. “Do you have anything to tell me about your paper?”
“No, not really. I guess it probably isn’t as good as some that you’ve read, but I did my best.”
“That’s not what I mean. You are aware that all work submitted by students passes through a cross check program.”
“Sure,” said Astrid. “I always thought that was kind of silly. I mean, you’re an expert on all things English. I’m sure you’d be able to tell if someone copied something just by looking at it.”
Mr. Hall shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
“I’m afraid that your assignment was flagged,” he said. “The system shows the same essay written by a student in California six months ago.”
“That’s not possible,” said Astrid. “I just wrote it.”