Lower Education

Author : David Henson

“Tommy and Sally, fly down to your seats and turn off your levitation belts, OK?” Miss DeRozan says gently. The two children ignore their teacher at first, then glide down to their places.

“Let’s get started,” the teacher says. “We’re going to have a wonderful time learning a lot of wonderful things this year.” — “Sounds wonderful” — someone giggles from the back of the room. Miss DeRozan smiles. “We’re fortunate to have an IACD conference with Captain Sandier. But first TA will deliver a quantum mechanics refresher. TA.”

The featureless android walks to the front of the class, light streaming from its synthetic skin to form a perfect image of Albert Einstein.

“Spooky action at a distance,” TA Einstein says in German.

“Miss DeRozan, I think his hair is spooky,” Sally says, also in German.

“Please, Sally, be nice. And by the way, you should have your UT checked. You just said TA Einstein has a scary rabbit. TA.”

“Spooky action at a distance,” TA Einstein repeats then reviews the early study of quantum mechanics. Every few minutes, lights swirl as TA’s appearance progresses through a series of prominent physicists. All the while children glide in and out of their seats despite Miss DeRozan’s pleas. The glowing android finally concludes as renowned artificial sentient Ciress Prime Xavier, who describes how she used the phenomenon of quantum entanglement to develop ICAD, instantaneous communication at any distance.

“Thank you, TA,” Miss DeRozan says. The teaching assistant assumes its blank appearance then turns toward the noisy students and flashes brightly. As it does, Tommy and Sally fly up near the ceiling and chase each other around the room.

“Children!” Miss DeRozan says sternly, then clears her throat. “Please,” she says sweetly. After another lap around the room, Tommy and Sally return to their desks.

“TA,” Miss DeRozan says, “Connect with Captain Sandier.” TA goes to the communications port, inserts its index finger, and glows the appearance of the Captain light years away.

“Good morning, class,” TA Captain says with a friendly salute. “Who can tell me the Expansion’s mission?”

“You’re on the far side of Alpha Centauri B looking for planets to terraform,” Jimmy shouts. “I have a question.”

“Uh…sure.”

“Have you ever been in a laser duel?” he says, rising into the air and pretending to shoot at Tommy, who flies out of his seat and fires back.

“Boys, please,” Miss DeRozan says.

“Captain Sandier, do any of those planets have giant frogs?” Sally says, rising and hopping through the air.

“Class, class,” Miss DeRozan says, but soon most of the children are hopping, back-flipping and somersaulting above their desks.

“Maybe we’ll do this another time,” Captain Sandier says. “Signing off.” TA immediately goes blank.

“Students,” Miss DeRozan says weakly, then walks to her desk and slumps heavily into her chair, the children roiling above her.

Suddenly TA begins to glow more brightly than ever. The swirl of light broadens and nearly reaches the ceiling till finally a Rhondarian Dragon is towering in the middle of the room. The beast roars and snaps it’s huge jaws, just missing Tommy. The boy freezes then immediately drifts down to his desk. TA dragon bares long razor-sharp teeth and eyes the other children, who quickly return to their places as well.

“Uh, thank you, TA,” Miss DeRozan says as her assistant reverts to its neutral form. “Now, students, please activate Chapter 1 in — Yes, Tommy,” she says noticing the boy waving his hand frantically.

“Miss DeRozan,” Tommy says. “May I please be excused to go to the bathroom?”