“Please, I can remake it.” Jaelyn was stood before Dr. Snow, Orion, Dr. Hyber, Andromeda, and Mars. “I can. I just need a night.”
“Your project can’t be judged with the others,” Dr. Snow explained with no empathy in her voice. “You can’t.”
“Why not? I’m not the one who destroyed it!” Jaelyn looked over all of them all and begged “I can get it done in a night. I can. And then it can be judged.”
“Judging already started,” Andromeda explained. “It wouldn’t be fair to the other students if you got more time than they did.”
Jaelyn felt the anger start to hit a boiling point. It had been since nearly the beginning of the school year that she had been working on her project for the International Space Society. How could they tell her now that it wouldn’t count?
“It isn’t fair that my project got destroyed by another contestant,” Jaelyn retorted.
“She has a point,” Mars said. “If she can get it done in one night, why shouldn’t we give her the chance to remake it?”
“It was made at a professional level, Mr. Addington,” Dr. Snow cut in. “She can’t recreate that.”
“I can,” Jaelyn added. “I can do it. Please.”
Glancing between each other, Mars looked at Jaelyn and said: “Can you step out for a minute so we can discuss?”
Jaelyn nodded and walked out the doors behind her.
She couldn’t hear what they were talking about inside the room. Even if she could, she felt like her heart was pounding in her ears. They needed to give her the chance. They had too. She needed a shot at winning this.
Sure, there wasn’t any professional staff members there at this hour to help recreate the prototype. Jaelyn knew she didn’t have any idea how to recreate what they did, but she knew she had too.
She didn’t work her ass off to get her scholarship for nothing. She knew she was capable – she was one of three people who got a 100% on the test. She got a 100%, the only one in her school for that matter, on the first draft of the prototype. She never let Tanner treating her like garbage stop her. His words were knives, but she pushed their pain and cuts deep into herself and kept the surface clean. She never let the garbage she lived in stop her.
This was her only chance to get out of the slums of her homelife. She wasn’t guaranteed anything after secondary school was over, but with this internship she could get a full ride to university. She had to keep reminding herself that’s what she was putting all of her blood, sweat, and tears into. She needed to escape.
Andromeda came to the door to let her back inside after a few minutes. She walked around the table and say back in her place. “We have decided that we will give you the opportunity to recreate the project.”
Jaelyn felt a smile creep across her face “Thank you. Thank you-”
“-However,” Andromeda continued, “You will get the blueprints that were created by the lab assistants. You have to recreate it exactly to what they made it. If anything is different, you will be disqualified. You have one night.”
She nodded. “I can do that. I understand.”
“You will be supplied with the materials.” Dr. Snow stood up and adjusted her black turtleneck. “I will overlook the blueprints when you are done.”
“Can I get to work now?”
Dr. Snow nodded.
Jaelyn looked at Mars. He was smiling at her. Jaelyn turned and walked out of the room, speed walking down the hall to where the lab was where her creation was built. She knew she had to get to work immediately if she wanted to finish before sunrise.
She didn’t know what time it was when she took a break. There were no windows in the lab. The clock was behind her. She was too invested in the recreation to turn around. Even though she gave herself a break, she couldn’t stop looking at it.
There were so many little pieces. Her project wasn’t much bigger than a refrigerator, but it felt like every little computer chip and the solar cell was the size of a blade of grass.
Doubt began to creep into her mind. There was no way that she would be able to finish this before the morning. She wasn’t even a fourth of the way done, and she felt like she had been in the lab for hours. Her eyes hurt from straining them to look at the little pieces. No wonder three people built this together – one probably barked directions at the others.
She heard the door slide open behind her. She didn’t care to look. It was probably one of the security guards going on their nightly rounds. They knew she was there. They would just close the door and leave.
But they didn’t do either.
Jaelyn waited to hear the door shut. When she didn’t, she turned and looked over to see who it was.
“What are you doing here so late?” Jaelyn asked. She turned back to her work.
“Orion told me about what happened,” Delta said softly. “I’m really sorry.”
“Not your fault I was lied to by someone who I thought was my friend.” Jaelyn picked up a bolt and checked for the serial number.
“He told me they’re giving you a shot at rebuilding it, too…” Delta stepped into the room and shut the door behind her.
“Yeah. I have until sunrise. But there are so many tiny little pieces-” The bolt slipped out of her hand and rolled away. “Oh come on!”
Delta picked up the bolt as it rolled to her feet. When she handed it back to her, Jaelyn noticed her outfit.
White lab coat, non-slip shoes, and leggings.
“Why are you coming into your internship so early?” She asked as she took the bolt. “No one is here. Just me and the security guards.”
“I know,” Delta said as she sat down next to her.
Jaelyn looked at her and asked, “What are you doing?”
Delta pulled her hair back and tied it into a ponytail. “I’m going to help you?”
Jaelyn rubbed the back of her neck. “Well, considering Ember destroyed my project, I didn’t think anyone would want to help.” She added, “And, this is a competition.”
“It may be a competition, but it’s not fair that your project got destroyed.” Delta slid the blueprint in front of her. “I want to win, but I want it to be fair. You deserve to be here as much as the rest of us do, you know.”
Jaelyn looked at her and said after a moment “Thank you.”
Delta nodded and smiled at her for a moment, before turning her attention back to the blueprint.
It was easier with two people. Jaelyn knew what it was supposed to look like, and Delta had experience building similar inventions. Delta taught her how to install solar cells properly, where to stand when installing something above your head, and how to slide a wrench into the tightest of spots. The later the night became, the closer they got to completing the project.
Jaelyn rubbed her eyes. She yawned and leaned back on the wall, overlooking the project. “I think we did it.”
“We did.” Delta leaned back against the wall next to her. She stretched and said, “What time is it?”
“I have no idea.” Jaelyn looked for the clock.
Delta pulled up her sleeve. “5:23 AM.”
“I haven’t stayed up this late in years.” Jaelyn half smiled and asked, jokingly “Is this what a sleepover is like?”
Delta chuckled “I couldn’t tell you.”
“There’s something we have in common,” Jaelyn replied. She overlooked the shiny metal exterior.
“I hated you when I met you,” Delta said after a few minutes.
“Because I smeared chocolate on your dress?”
“Ember convinced me that you were a bitch. So I took her word and hated you too.”
The two girls laughed together.
“You’re nice,” Jaelyn said.
“So are you.” Delta looked at her and asked, “When all of this is over, we should talk.”
Jaelyn didn’t say anything.
“After,” Delta repeated, smiling gently, “so we don’t have to worry about the stress of this project anymore. Maybe… we could find out what those sleepovers are like.”
“I would like that.” Jaelyn looked at her.
“Then it’s a plan.” Delta stood up and said “I should go. If they catch me here, we’ll both be in trouble.”
“Thank you again, Delta.” Jaelyn smiled at her.
“Of course.” Delta smiled for a moment. She flattened her jacket, and she left the lab space.
A few minutes passed when the door opened again. Dr. Snow walked in and looked at the creation in front of her. “Are you all done?”
Jaelyn stepped forward and nodded. She handed her the blueprints.
Dr. Snow took them and opened it. She observed the outside of the machine first. She examined the doorways, vents, bolts, and bracing. She looked at the inside after. Jaelyn swore she could see her counting the number of computer chips, which she knew there were hundreds of.
It took longer than she expected for Dr. Snow to overlook every aspect of the machine. She even turned it on and listened to the way that it sounded. When she turned the machine off, she said: “You did it.”
“I did?” Jaelyn smiled and asked, “So I’ll be judged with the others?”
Dr. Snow nodded. “I will say, I am impressed that you were able to do this work in one night that took three people two weeks.”
“I really want a shot at winning this.” Jaelyn rubbed her eyes and said, “Does this mean I can go home and go to bed?”
“Mars has a futon in his office. Ask him if you can sleep there. Falling asleep on the monorail isn’t a good idea.” Dr. Snow placed the blueprints on the workbench.
Jaelyn smiled a bit. It was the first comment Dr. Snow had made to her that was a kind, genuine comment.
She took the elevator up to Mars’ floor. She stepped out and knocked on his office door.
He opened the door, smiling. He said, sounding chipper “Good morning, Jaelyn. Did you do it?”
“Yes!” Mars smiled and continued “I am so proud of you.”
She smiled, then asked “Can I nap on your futon? Dr. Snow told me that you had one in here.”
Mars chuckled, and he let her come into the office. Jaelyn saw the small futon in the corner. Her body dragged her there, filled with exhaustion. She collapsed onto it and shut her eyes immediately. She was conscious long enough to feel a blanket be draped over her body, and a pillow be tucked under her head by a gentle hand.