Part 7 of the Netcromancer by M.J.Miello
The day after finals, with my curiosity fully engaged, I presented to the address provided, finding myself at a bar named, “The Fleetfoot.”
Inside, many mustachioed men with gold chains were waiting. I immediately assumed that this was some kind of prank. Had they sent me to a gay bar? But then I realized that the TV screens were broadcasting a soccer game in Spanish. All present were transfixed by the little speck of white that fluttered between the players’ feet. They were all oblivious to everything around them, all except for…
Billy Penchant was standing, awkwardly in the middle of the room, seemingly lost. His face wore his usual expression of bemused detachment.
“You got the emails too huh?” I asked him.
“Yeah. I didn’t know if we were supposed to talk about it or not.”
“It said upstairs.” I reminded him.
Behind the sign that read, “Private Party” there was a stairway. We could hear the raucous laughter as we climbed.
Upstairs, I saw a host of familiar and unfamiliar faces: The lab techs, the TAs, and a number of graduate students—all men. They were talking, laughing, and drinking beer. In the midst of it all was Zee himself. For a moment the two of us stood at the top of the stairs waiting to be noticed.
“Doctors!” they called out and cheered. There were handshakes for us and slaps on the shoulder. It felt like we had won some kind of award. They poured us each a beer.
“Um. I’m not twenty one…” Billy attempted (and failed) to wave the beer away.
“Drink!” ten voices commanded.
“And listen. And learn,” Nicholas said. “Gentlemen of the BAC. I present to you Drs. Penchant and Salvatore. They have both made it through their first year. Both of them, without having any idea why, have agreed to go above and beyond the duty of a student. They have, almost singlehandedly, instructed four classes between them.”
“Then what the fuck are they paying me for?” Zee asked, earning uproarious laughter.
“They have written their own decoding software,” Nicholas continued, “and, most importantly, avoided pissing us off for an entire year.”
“To well-behaved noobs!” someone yelled. They cheered loudest for this last point.
“So doctors,” Nicholas was undeterred, “this is your graduation party! This semester was your last as a mere sniveling, groveling, lowly college student. If you accept, and you will accept if you are not complete idiots, you will be members of the Brown Ale Collective.”
Again they cheered.
“Is that what BAC stands for?” Billy asked.
I had, by this time, gathered that the BAC was some kind of secret club, and I even realized that I was being primed for membership. But I had no idea that there were so many of them.
“What does joining you entail?” Billy asked, sounding like he was on the phone with a telemarketer. Several people laughed at his directness. But I was glad that he had asked.
“If you join us, you will continue on as you have been doing. You will go to classes—staying ahead. You will teach when called upon. You will grade projects. You will mark tests. You will design assignments and worksheets. You will, in short, do all the work of college professors other than to set the curriculum and assign final grades. And when the time comes you will do the real work. You will never tell anyone else about this. In exchange—you will have privileges.
“Privileges?” Billy asked, “What kind of privileges?”
“That, you will be told, when you are ready.”
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