“What’s a ‘book’?” Ilka asked.
Rudin stared at his stick of a sister and rolled his eyes. He always rolled his eyes at her whenever she asked these kind of questions. It made him look exasperated and that was often enough for her to leave him alone.
“Well?” she prodded him.
Rudin cupped his chin with the palm of his hand and tapped the side of his face with a finger. He looked at her big unyielding brown eyes and sighed. It was the deepest sigh he could muster. It sounded very convincing. But more importantly it hid the fact that he didn’t really have a clue.
“WELL?” she asked again.
There was no getting rid of her now, Rudin thought. He scratched the small bony bump just above his left cheek and hoped she didn’t realize that he had just activated his search engine off campus.
“Hrrrm.” Rudin cleared his throat.
“What’s a book?” he repeated, carefully hiding the inflection in his speech that triggered the query.
The result was instantaneous, and flooded him with so much raw data that he was afraid that it might freeze his engine. He had forgotten to filter his query into the most basic definition only. The results were normally limited but ever since he had managed to access his engine off campus and tweak its settings he had kept the filter off. There were a lot of advantages to keeping the filter off, especially during the cold lonely nights that seemed to be way too often these days. Freezing his engine would be bad news. That would alert the family monitor and that would alert his dad. His dad wouldn’t be happy with him breaking the rules. Nor would he be happy with the kind of search tags he had piled up.
Rudin shook his head and blinked his eyes. The results kept scrolling to infinity. Unable to bear it anymore, he called a halt. The lines stopped generating. The data didn’t make sense. They weren’t even arranged by relevance. Some of them weren’t even in Front, Landric, or Stellar, the most common language. That’s odd, he thought. He tagged that particular chunk of data and cleared the visuals. He would check up on that later. He also thought of finding some package that would allow him to subvocalize queries.
“I know what you just did,” Ilka said. Her voice was low with no trace of suspicion. She knew for certain.
Rudin, stared at her. He had forgotten about her. He had spoken out the commands and they were unmistakable. He might as well forget about downloading that package now for all the good it would do once they strip him of his unlimited access. He sighed. This time it was more than convincing, it was honest.
“Ilka,” Rudin started. He knew that he was now at her mercy. One wrong word, one wrong gesture and she’d be running full speed down the stairs to their mother. “What’s your price?”
Ilka stared at him with her big eyes. She gulped.
“Ponies. Can you look them up for me?”