Monthly Archives: November 2016

That First Job

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything original.  I needed to jot something down to maybe get some creative juices flowing once more.  So I sat down and started writing a character I’ve haven’t visited in a while.  Hopefully it’s okay.

This is part of what is becoming more of a series than I though it would be.  There is no real order because each story is contained, but this is the third story I’ve shared with this character.  Enjoy.


That First Job

My grandfather always warned me to be prepared.  He would place his tanned and scared hand on my shoulder, locked his eyes, one bright and brown the other hazy and milky and blind, with mine and say in his booming voice, “Be ready.”  I was small, awed by what he had seen and what he had to say and what he had to show me still.  So I said, “for what?”  And he would look over my head, his one good eye seeing things I couldn’t dream of.  “For anything.”

I’m pretty sure this is not what my grandfather had in mind when he said to be prepared for anything.  I’m pretty sure he was thinking of long-gone battles and mostly forgotten thoughts of rebellion and war with the Imps.  I’m pretty sure he wanted me to be prepared for the day when humanity threw off our alien overloads/protectors.  He, sadly, is still waiting for that.

I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean that I should be prepared to hang by my fingertips off the side of building I was trying to rob while the security team looked for me.  Or maybe he did.  Sometimes it was hard to know with Grandfather.

My fingertips ached.  I deeply regretted opting for the cheaper climber gloves.  The upgrade had gecko pads which would have allowed me to cling to the side of the building in a, slightly, more comfortable position.  Lesson learned: don’t be miser when you are trying to steal from a high-rise.  Next time.

If there was a next time.

They, the nebulous they, always tell you to never look down when in a high place.  Of course, once that thought entered your head, there was no getting rid of it.  They were always right.  Never look down.

The street was really far away.  The people looked like the tiny robotic bees the Imps released after most of the real bees died off some twenty years ago.  They buzzed to and fro in their sleek motopods.  It was one of the first things the Imps gifted us with, as an apology for utterly destroying Guangzhou, the heart of world trade and finance, to teach us a lesson about trying to fight back.  The motopods were pretty neat though, sleek metal teardrop shaped pods that could communicate with each other seamlessly.  Apparently it eliminated something called traffic.  My teacher in school once said that people died by the tens of thousands in the automobiles they used before the Imps arrived.  Most people thought it was a fair trade.

My earpiece crackled and I almost lost my grip.  “Not on this floor,” the metallic voice came through.  The secretary team sent up the androids.  That was a blessing in disguise.  It meant they were less likely to double back to the floor they already checked; the floor I was currently dangling from.

“Circle back down.  He can’t have gone far,” the human controller replied.  Sweat was pouring down my face, but I couldn’t help the smirk.  Did no body read the classics anymore?

Now the hard part.  I trained for this.  I trained hours every day for a year for this.  I canvased the building, got in with the deliver companies that ran to this floor, knew where ever sensor and camera and floor monitor was.  It would do me no good if I couldn’t get in through the fucking window.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I shifted my weight on my feet and to a single hand.  My shoes, more high quality than the gloves apparently, held me fast against the slick-looking glass on the side of the building.  What most people didn’t know is that it wasn’t glass, but a porous material that helped trap carbon dioxide from the air and siphoned it through capillaries in the building to an underground plant that converted it into sugars.  All the old buildings from just after the Imps took over was built from it.  Their second gift was the material.  The best thing about it, though, was the fact that climber shoes found all the tiny pores and could cling to them.

My fingers on my left hand were sore.  I flexed them a few times before extending my arm up to grasp the lip of the window sill.  It held firm.  A few moments later, I had my other hand on the lip of the sill.  Slowly, I moved one foot than the other.  It would do no good to rush now.  I’d waited too long for this.  Rushing would only mean mistakes and mistakes meant getting caught.  Deep breath.

The nice thing about high-rise condos is that nobody locks their windows.  Because why?  The window pivoted on a hinge, leaving just enough space for me to crawl through.  It was also the only window in the place without a camera on it.  Because, again, why?

I pulled myself up and eased through the space, careful where I placed my hands and feet as I crawled through.  There wasn’t a camera on the window, but there was a floor monitor about a foot away in front of the sliding balcony door.  Most people thought it was would be easier to scale the building and enter through the balcony, I guess.  Standing, I flexed my body, popping the creaks out and rolling the muscles.  All that training paid off.  I was sore, but I could still move to do what needed to be done next.

I carried a small hip pack.  I dug through it now, finding the remote device and pushing a button.  Hacking into the security system wasn’t easy, but I’d managed it.  The cameras, at least, would show the empty house.  The sensors and floor monitors were a different story.

I learned young that I was really good with patterns.  My grandfather and I would play this game for hours where I had to figure out the patterns in his code.  It was only after I saw my first Imp that I realized I could put my special skill to a different use.  Imps walk weird, but there is a pattern to their movements, and they like to put sensors on the floor that match those patterns.  If you can’t follow their walking styles, you trip the monitors.  The Imp who lived in the condo was no exception.  And I knew his pattern.

So I moved through the living room, through the kitchen, into the collection room.

There were several items that, by themselves, were worth a fortune.  I walked right past them.  There was only one thing that was priceless in that room.

The security system was a Z12-T34 LASER system.  It was one that studied and understood on a personal level.  I crouched at the base of the display and slide aside the panel.  The Z13-T34 LASER system.

Well, fuck.

Of course.

Deep breath.

Fuck.

The Z13-T34 was just different enough that I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking at.  But time was running out and I’d come too far to back out now.  I blinked twice rapidly and my digital display opened in front of my eyes.  Rapid eye moments back and forth quickly typed in a search for the new specs.  Of course nothing that I needed popped up.

Except maybe…

One site compared the old system with the new system.  It was enough.

For once, time was on my side.  The owner of the condo was away at the main Imp archive in Paris and the bots had already scanned this level of the building.  They were unlikely to research the area.  I pulled out my tools from my hip bag and set to work, referencing the website models as needed.

I thought I would be nervous, with sweat dripping from my temples like in the old Hollywood spy movies Grandfather watched with me when I was a kid.  Instead, I felt cold and calm as my fingers and tools made quickish work of the wires and security protocols in place that protected my query.  The new system was not that different from the old, luckily, and the few major changes were easy to understand with the help of the website I’d found.  It took only a handful of minutes longer than I practiced for, but the system lights flickered and died with the last press of a button.

I stood and just stared for a moment at the model in front of me.  It wasn’t very big, maybe the size of my hand.  For some reason, it was bigger in my mind.  Carefully, I lifted it from the display and cradled it.  It was lighter than I thought too.  I flipped it over.  There, on one of the landing feet were my Grandfather’s initials, just like he said.  Now that it was in my hands, I felt the nerves start to flare up.

Deep breath.  I still had to get out of here.  I pulled a small piece of cloth from my hip bag and wrapped the model as carefully as I could.  The Millennium Falcon was coming home.


Read the other adventures from our lovable burglar

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5 years and beyond

A new study shows that 17% of teachers leave after 5 years in the profession.  That number might be a little low due to the recent recession too.  A previous study had shown that up to 50% of teachers left the field after just 5 years.

I completely understand why.  I’ve been a teacher for 5 years now and I get it.  I know there are a lot of people out there who understand that teaching is difficult.  There are a lot of people who really appreciate teachers for what they are doing and how hard they work.  I know that there are a lot of other professionals who work just as hard as teachers do.  But unless you are there, in the classroom, you really can’t understand what I do on a daily basis.  I don’t want to complain about it, because I do enjoy my work, but I just want to say that I understand why people choose to leave after 5 years.

I teach HS chemistry.  It wasn’t the subject I thought I would be teaching (I have a degree in zoology for crying out loud) but I’ve come to absolutely love it.  I’m even in the process of completing a MS in chemistry education to both further my education and to help my students earn college credits for taking my class.  I want my students to get everything they can out of my class.

But sometimes I really wonder what the heck I’m doing and if it means anything at all.  I was doing a lab on intermolecular forces and polarity the other day and my students where… just not getting it.  This is after we’ve gone over polar bonds, polar molecules, intermolecular forces.  They’ve had demos and reading and group work and computer simulations.  We’v had class discussion and they’ve written about it and answered bell work about it.  We’ve been doing this for a week and still… they are not making the connections that I want them to make.  I get that it’s only been a week and I know that it is difficult stuff.  That doesn’t make it any less frustrating to me.  Because it is frustrating when you pour your heart into making these lessons and making sure that it is fun and engaging and hits all the DOK levels and all the learning styles and all the Blooms levels and all the other stuff that your principal and mentor and college degree says should be in a lesson to make it a good lesson.

Your students are frustrated too.  Because they can see that you want them to understand and expect them to understand and they still don’t.  So they blame you.  You didn’t teach it.  You went too fast.  You didn’t help them.  Or maybe they blame themselves.  They are too stupid or just “not good at science (or whatever subject)”.  They give up because they think it doesn’t matter and no one cares.

Except I do care.  I care a lot.

So I understand why teachers leave after 5 years.  I want to remind those teachers of all the good times.

I have a wall in my classroom of all the notes that students have left me.  I read through those every time I’m having one of those “nothing I do matters” days.  They are notes saying that I’m a good teacher, that I made a difference in one student’s life.  They are notes saying I was fun and the student enjoyed my class (even though it was hard).  They are notes telling me that the student didn’t like science before my class but now they do.  They are notes reminding me that what I do does matter, even if a student still doesn’t understand polarity at the end of the day.

I met up with some former students at ASU the other day.  They were all taking chemistry at college and they said something about how their college class is basically my class, just a little deeper level.  But they get it this year and were really glad that they took my class their senior year.  Oh, and they still have all of my notes and they’ve been really helpful.  They are also dying inside and haven’t slept in a few days, but chemistry is easy this year.

Maybe I don’t connect with every student.  Maybe there are some students who don’t like me or hated my class.  But there are more students who liked my class, who enjoy me as a teacher, and who think that what I’m doing matters.  These are the students I want to stay for.

In January, 2017, I will officially have been a teacher for 5 years.  But I won’t be leaving this profession.  Even if it is only for those few students, I matter.


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