Privileges

Part 4 of the Netcromancer by M.J.Miello

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By the middle of my first semester, I knew the second level comp-sci curriculum backwards and forwards. I was also getting better at explaining it.  The class was keeping up with the work. There was some satisfaction to be found in that, even if my fellow students didn’t appreciate my labors. Most seemed to resent me.  The girls never flirted back.  The guys viewed my assistance as a degrading insult.  Some saw  me as the uber-nerdy teacher’s pet and others as a kind of servant at their beckon call.

“Hey it’s not like I’m getting paid for this!” I shot back at one classmate when she complained that I was taking too long to attend to her.

“You’re not? Aren’t you like the TA?”

“No!” I laughed.

“So you’re just a kid in this class?”

“That I am.”

“What the fuck?”

I shrugged.

Most students didn’t understand why I tolerated this. I didn’t understand why I was doing it either. As far as I knew all I would be getting out of it was an ‘A’ on my report card and (maybe) a letter of recommendation if I ever needed one.

There was, however, one additional benefit. During the week before finals, when every student in the school had a paper to finish, I made the mistake of counting on getting a computer in the lab so that I could finish and print out a paper two hours before it was due.  The lab was packed—every computer taken. I walked over to the clipboard to sign up to wait. There were already a dozen names ahead of me. I cursed at myself as I realized my paper grade was dropping with every minute I had to wait.

“You can use that one,” a tech said, pointing to a computer in the lab staff area.

“I can?” I asked.

“Yes. Dr. Salvatore, YOU can.”

I had no idea how this lab tech even knew who I was, or why he was calling me ‘Doctor’ for that matter, but I knew better than to question my good fortune. I logged in and immediately got to work.

From that day forward the lab was like my home on campus. I could count on never having to wait and I got to know all the techs. I began to see that there was a complex structure to their interactions.

“Dr. Salvatore,” was what they called me.  But this was a joke. By ‘doctor’, they meant something more like  “noob” or “peon” in their sarcastic parody treatment of academic culture.

“The students with the highest status among them—graduate students, who had previously worked in the lab were called, “the Magnus” or “Magi” for plural—a word I knew from the fantasy role-playing world to mean wizard.  Others who were not quite as high up were called “Ap” which I think was short for ‘apprentice’.”

“Doctor Penchant!” a lab tech, said one unusually busy day early into the Spring semester. I looked up, curious to see someone else who (apparently) had the same rank as me. He stood before the full lab, thoroughly confused.  Circular glasses adorned his good natured face. His hair was long and curly, and he wore a blue button-down shirt with a keyboard tie.

“You can use that one Doctor!” the lab tech said.

“I can?”

And then he took a seat next to me.

“You guys are friends now,” the tech said pointing to us.

“We are?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I answered, “I think so. It’s a whole BAC thing.”

“What’s BAC?” he asked.

“I have no idea. Christopher Salvatore,” I shook his hand.

“Billy Penchant.”

And just like that we were friends and our friendship would last a long, long time, until he put a bullet in me. But that’s a story for another day.

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