Disclaimers: Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry and is owned by Paramount Pictures.
I make no monetary profits from my fanfic.
Summary: Lore escapes and gets more than he bargained for – and quite enjoys it.
Author's Note: Set after Descent II. The character name ‘Ananya’ comes from a sweet floral perfume from The Body Shop, which is sadly no longer made :( and the name ‘Hamble’ comes form my favourite doll from the Australian Play School. She was so pretty! Sadly, she no longer appears.
Everything had gone wrong and he panicked. Lucky for him, he had planned his escape, in case things got ugly. He darted around the corner, avoiding the colossal Borg brawl. Knowing Data would soon be after him, haste was on his mind. He bolted down the corridor and into the room, practically flying across the room, to his control panel and began to activate it.
The One froze when he heard the voice. Would it be too late now? Lore turned to face his brother, whom he noticed was armed, with a Borg phaser. There was so much he wanted to tell Data - only now, realizing what he had done was wrong.
He wanted his brother to be with him, but felt a pang of guilt, as he realized he had denied his brother's freedom. But what could he do about that now? What had been done was done. Lore knew he was considered extremely dangerous, and of course, it was Data's duty to stop him. He wondered what it would be like if things were different. But what good would that do him now? He seemed to always be doing the wrong things. Could he do something right for a change? Still be himself, of course, but do something good? Who would believe him if he suddenly decided to turn over a new leaf? And besides, Data had a job to do. Lore wanted to start over, but didn't know how and the one who could most help him was pointing the business end of a phaser right at him. Lore knew he'd stuffed up big time and didn't know how to make things right. Trying to talk Data out of it was futile, but he tried anyway, carefully hiding how desperate he was, but as Lore expected, Data was having none of it.
Only one thing he could do - risky, but the only way out. He disconnected the flow of emotions he was emitting to his brother, setting Data free. Lore instantly grabbed his phaser and whirled around. Data fired first, the blast almost hitting an astonished Lore. Lore had moved quickly, avoiding the blast, even he wasn't sure how he did it, but he didn't care. He crouched behind the control panel for cover, then fired at Data. Data swivelled sideways and the blast hit the far wall in the corridor. As Lore crouched by the control panel, he saw Data's shadow nearing him. He peeked around the corner and fired, throwing his brother off balance. Lore began to stand, Data was quick to his feet also, and fired at Lore. Lore ducked the blast, but felt the heat as it passed overhead. Data's weapon was not set to kill, but Lore deduced from the blast that the setting was high enough to whack the living daylights out of him, incapacitating him, giving Data more than enough time to deactivate him, and he could not let that happen.
The brothers fired at one and other, skilfully manoeuvring themselves out of the blast paths. Data blasted Lore's arm. Lore winced and staggered backwards, and saw Data wasn't about to stop there. Lore ripped a panel off the wall, and held it in front of him, diverting Data's next blast.
"I cannot let you escape, Lore..."
"And I can't let you kill me."
"I do not intend to kill-"
"You'll disassemble me, right. Same dif."
Lore threw the panel at Data, giving him enough time to blast his brother's phaser, rendering it useless. The panel clattered to the floor and Data looked at Lore, pointing the phaser right at him.
"If you destroy me, Lore, it will only make things worse for yourself. Starfleet and the Federation will-"
"To Hades with them! They want to disassemble me anyway. I know I fucked up, Data but no one cares enough to help me, least of all you. You would have shot me with that blasted thing and disassembled me - that's virtual death, Data for us. You know that. You've never even bothered trying to understand me, what I've been through in my life, because you just don't give a damn." Lore's words came out more emotionally than he would have liked.
Data listened to what Lore was saying to him, seeing his brother becoming upset and emotional, he decided to use that to his advantage. Something inside him felt against doing that, but it was the only way he felt he could complete his duty. Data took a step closer to Lore. Lore backed off a little.
"Stay back, Data, I'm warning you."
"Lore, I want to help you. I am not going to hurt you."
Lore listened to the words, and they sounded reassuring, but he wasn't sure. Data walked closer toward him.
"Stop..." Lore said, growing uneasy, but Data would not.
Lore panicked again and fired, the next thing he saw was his brother being hurled across the room and crash into the far wall. Data had landed in a sitting position and Lore approached him. "I didn't want to shoot you, Data, but you didn't leave me much choice."
Data looked at his brother.
"It's set to maximum stun," he said. "I had no intention of killing you, Data. You are my brother, even if we're ... enemies."
Data said nothing and didn't take his eyes off Lore. He was immobilized, helpless and totally at Lore's mercy, as he had been before, and Lore had taken advantage of that. Lore could have sworn he saw fear in Data's eyes, even after he'd severed the emotional link.
"Your friends will find you," he said, "and your automatic repair systems'll repair the blast damage - and, Data, the implants can be removed from Geordi's brain. I was going to remove them myself, when I discovered it wasn't working, but I never got the chance. I hope we meet again. There's a lot we need to talk about and sort out, but now isn't the time."
"I cannot let you cause ... the deaths of any more ... people, Lore," Data said, his voice weak.
Lore looked at his brother. "Perhaps I want to start a new life - give myself the chance no one else would and help myself, because no one else gives a shit. What makes you think I enjoy the loss of lives? I don't. Everything I do to try to belong and be accepted turns out to be wrong. Sometimes I wish I was never created at all. I don't want to hurt or kill anyone, Data and I know I was wrong to do what I did, but I know there's more to me than simply being your 'evil' twin. I wish others knew that too, but they don't and when I try, every bugger wants to disassemble me. They don't even try to help me, or see there's anything more to me that being 'an evil android.' It's not fair, Data. I wish you understood."
"Perhaps, we can sort this out someday, and I agree that there is much we need discuss but I do not believe that you will not kill again and as for here and now, I believe you will continue to do what you have been doing and keep on doing so, until-"
Lore cut him off. "I've heard enough. Fine. Believe what you want to believe. Just wait and see. Goodbye, Data."
Lore turned around and walked back to his control panel to complete the escape sequence.
Lore turned back to Data.
"Perhaps," Data said, "also..."
There was a pause.
"What is it?" Lore asked,
"I..." Data paused again.
Lore caught on to what he was trying to do and smiled.
"Nice try, Brother Dear, but stalling isn't gonna work."
He took one last look at Data, before entering the Borg shuttle and closing the hatch. His brother looked somewhat relieved that Lore had not chosen to blast him out of existence. Data also seemed worried that he was escaping, and might cause more damage and wreak more havoc, but Lore honestly didn't have a clue what his future plans were. Right now, the only thing on his mind was getting the hell out of here, and he made good his escape.
* * *
Riker and the security team burst into the room.
"Data!" Riker rushed to him. "Thank God we found you. What happened? Where's Lore?"
"I am all right, sir," Data said, "or I will be in 65.5 seconds. Lore severed the link, immobilized me and ... escaped. I was unable to stop him. I am sorry."
"If only we'd gotten here sooner," Riker sighed. "It's not your fault, Data. The Enterprise can track Lore's shuttle."
The android nodded. "I am afraid he will be long gone by now, Sir."
Riker thought he heard anger in Data's voice, but Data had told him that Lore had cut off the link.
Although Data wished he could believe Lore's words about starting a new life, but did not conceive it possible and was not going to give up on apprehending him.
* * *
Inside the shuttle and paranoid, Lore checked the sensors, every two or three minutes, the very least, to make sure no one was in pursuit. He felt like a jittery, nervous Marmot. His shields were up full and he was speeding along to the shuttles maximum warp of 3.3, as opposed to the Enterprise's 9.9. He grew more and more anxious and nervously began tapping his fingernails on the shuttle's console.
After a few hours, he began to calm. They hadn't come after him, which was a good sign, and if they had known which direction he was headed, they would have. It was Lore's good fortune that they'd spent time with Data, the other Borg and that accursed Hugh.
"God only knows why I got mixed up with them ... I wanted to help ... I wasn't going to kill Data in front of them. The phaser was set to stun and I was going to 'repair' him afterward. Why did it all go so wrong?" Lore sighed, upset. The phaser he'd given Data to 'kill' Picard had also been set, to stun, of course Data wasn't meant to know that. Picard would have been more useful to Lore alive. Lore thought about what he would have done if Data had proved loyal to him. The testing on Geordi and the Borg wasn't working, so he planned to reverse it ... Lore hadn't meant for things to go so terribly wrong. He had wanted to be with his brother, but now, thinking back, it had been wrong to control him. Lore wanted to make things right, but if he went back now, they'd disassemble him like a bunch of hungry piranhas and who would care enough to repair and reassemble him now? Not Data, not anyone. Lore wanted to set things right with his brother and he'd bungled it.
He sat, angry with himself knowing there wasn't time left to try anything. It would have to wait - wait until when, Lore had no idea. It angered him, he wanted to do it now, but knew Data would not forgive him for what he did, not for quite a while. It upset Lore, but he knew he only had himself to blame. If only Data knew - if only others knew what his life had been like, but how could he tell them when everyone was against him? Picard had fought for Data's rights as a sentient being.
What about my rights? I'm as sentient as Data...
He knew he'd done some very questionable things, but no one would accept him or even give him a chance, and the more rejection was thrown in his face, the more it hurt, the more Lore rebelled. He had tried not to be upset by it, but it was very difficult to ignore.
"I guess it's up yo me to give me a chance, since no one else gives a crap," he said to himself. "So, Lore, where to now? We're more than 65 light years away from Federation space. Good. We're also well away from the Klingons, Romulans, Pakleds, Yiridian, Ferengi, and we're no where near Borg space, thank God. So where the Hades are we?"
Lore had a habit of talking to himself, which he had developed on the Omicron Theta colony, where the rejection started. He had felt so unwanted and lonely there. He was the only person who would comfort him and the only one he could trust and talk to, confide in - and he was the only one who would listen. He wished others would listen and care, but that hope grew dimmer with every passing day. What hope? Lore had never gave up hope of someone understanding him and caring for him, but when was another matter entirely. Most of the time, that hope seemed like wishful thinking. He forced himself not to dwell on the subject now. The sensor in Lore's shuttle suddenly bleeped, causing Lore to jump more than the proverbial ten feet, almost having a servo pump attack, then he sighed with utter relief when he saw the sensor had detected a planet. It was too far away to be seen visually, but Lore decided he would head there for now.
The planet came into view, green, rather large and inhabited by humanoids.
"Well it's better than being taken to pieces, I suppose," Lore said to himself. He scanned the world, it seemed rather primitive. No radar, sensors, or anything capable of interstellar travel. He picked out a forest where he would set down. A good thing this planet had come up, Lore thought. This shuttle wasn't too durable, which angered him. He had ordered the Borg to construct a strong shuttle. What if he had been caught by the Enterprise? There was no way it could have stood up to an assault from a Galaxy Class starship. He'd have had two choices. Either surrender and be taken to pieces or stay in the shuttle and be blown to pieces. Wow. Some choice. The more Lore thought about it the more he decided he would have surrendered. At least then he'd have a chance of being repaired. Lore was thankful things had not turned out that way. At least something had gone right.
The shuttle approached the planet. Lore made sure it had enough power and momentum to break through the planet's atmosphere. If it didn't, he'd have to keep on travelling through space, unless he wanted to be torn to shreds, but fortunately, it did. Grateful and satisfied, Lore began to land.
The shuttle shook vigorously, but nothing Lore couldn't handle. He landed it in a clearing in the forest and clutched onto the control panel as it thudded to the ground. It was quite a clumsy thing. Apparently shuttle making wasn't in the Borg's field of expertise, but nevertheless he had escaped in it and it had served its purpose. Lore was safe and that was all he cared about right now. He checked the sensors again, which detected humanoid life forms beyond the forest - a different species from the ones Lore had detected before, so he concluded from that, that this planet wasn't totally ignorant of other life forms. Good, he thought, I won't be as conspicuous. Usually he liked to stand out, but that wasn't exactly appropriate here. He checked the other controls of the shuttle, and bashed the console in anger when he discovered the engines had burnt out and he didn't like his chances of finding materials on this planet to fix them. The sensors were the only thing that worked on the shuttle, and even they were shoddy at best.
"Well, looks like your flyin' days are over," Lore said, climbing out of the shuttle and securing the hatch.
He looked around and smiled. Who would think to look for him here? He walked out of the forest, into a large clearing, covered with grass, then something caught his eye - a flash of red and black in the distance. Lore spun around to see two armed Starfleet officers running toward him, and panic struck again. His face became even paler. Oh my God ... How could they have found me? I didn't detect any Federation ships ... This isn't a Federation world .... Lore didn't want to kill them. That'd make things far worse for him than they already were. He couldn't get close enough to render them unconscious - they'd shoot him and if there were two Starfleet officers, there'd be more - and Data would be here too. Lore swallowed. Where could he go? The men were closing on him and so Lore bolted through the forest, as fast as he could, which was pretty fast. He had no idea where he was going or for how long he could elude them. He ran into a town, with old fashioned stone and wooden buildings. Much like the mid 20th century Earth. Lore remembered seeing some vids on Earth on Omicron Theta, but scenery wasn't exactly on his mind right now. He kept running. In his panic, he fled into a large grey stone complex and didn't stop until he came to a dead end. He spun around, expecting to see the Starfleet officers soon bolting down the corridor, but it was deserted. Perhaps they've lost me, he hoped, but then he heard footsteps, coming closer. Lore tensed and prepared himself.
The person emerged from the adjacent corridor. She was a middle aged-elderly woman and unarmed. She was obviously a native of this planet. Lore sighed with relief. Hearing him, the woman turned around.
"There you are at last ...."
Lore looked at her, puzzled.
"Don't look so alarmed," she said. "I know no one wants this job, but it's really not so terrible. I thought you said you'd decided not to come. Quite a lot of them do that. They're desperate for a job, and when I offer them this one, they turn white and run for the hills. You've turned pale already."
Lore almost smiled. "Uh ... this is my natural skin color..." was all he could say, wondering what in Hades the woman was on about.
"Oh," the woman said. "I do apologize. From another world?"
She smiled. "We have quite a lot of off-worlders here, not that we can go to other worlds, mind you. Now that would be something special."
Lore' his mind was racing, thinking about the Starfleet Officers.
"You took a risk coming here today," the woman said.
For a brief moment, Lore thought she knew, then she continued. "A murderer, escaped from prison this morning and has been terrorizing the entire town. That's why all the doors are locked. I was going to lock the front door, when I saw you. Are you sure about the job?"
What job? "Yes," Lore said, "I'm sure," wondering what the Hades the job was, but anything to keep away from those blasted Starfleet officers.
The woman smiled, bringing brightness to her dull face. "I'm glad you changed your mind. This morning you telephoned me and told me to shove the job up - well, I don't care to repeat the rest."
"Oh," Lore said, quickly, "... that was my brother."
"He didn't have to be so rude."
Lore almost laughed. "Well, I'm glad to get away from him. We've never exactly gotten on. I'm glad to take the job. What is it exactly?"
The woman threw back her head and laughed. "No wonder you're so eager! I sincerely hope you decide to stay."
"At the moment anything's better than being with my brother."
"You really don't like him, do you?"
"Let's just say we have our differences."
"I understand," the woman said. "How rude I've been. I've not introduced myself. Such things always slip my mind. I'm Seth, Headmistress of my school, Lady Seth Elementary."
Lore hesitated for a moment, but no one here knew him or his background, so he told Seth his name.
"Law?" Seth said, "like the police?"
Lore was amused and his face showed it. "No. L-o-r-e."
"Oh," Seth said. "That is an interesting name."
"Thank you," Lore said, genuinely. No one had ever commented on his name before. "I like your name too."
"It's a family name," she said, "has been for generations and I'm honored and proud to bear it."
Lore followed Seth as she showed him around the school. There were many classrooms, including science labs and computer classes. Primitive by Lore's standards, but he said nothing. There were also art rooms. Even though this was a backward world, some of the weird and wonderful artwork and sculptures Lore saw in the rooms impressed him and appealed to him.
"Some have won awards in art shows," Seth said proudly.
"I'm not surprised."
Seth closed and locked the door and lead Lore away. Lore saw some school children in some classrooms, but none in the corridors, as they had all been instructed to stay inside until the escaped prisoner had been captured. The school was quite large and it took Seth quite a while to show Lore the entire grounds. She lead him into a room.
"This is our stationary room, if you need anything, you can take it from here, but mark in the book what you take, so I can order more when we run out. If you have any problems, you can come and see me - and don't worry about the noise the children make - the building's soundproof."
Seth showed Lore that main office. "This is where I do a lot of my work." I'm usually in here if you need me. I operate as a counsellor too."
Lore sighed inwardly. He had a lot of problems, but private ones he didn't care to discuss with anyone. He looked out of the window, which looked out onto the town and froze when he saw the two Starfleet officers running, but not in his direction. He was grateful that they hadn't seen him and he wanted to get out of their sight, but when he saw next surprised him. He watched as the two uniformed men grabbed a person in a grey overcoat, tackle him to the ground and hand-cuff him. Lore looked closer. They weren't wearing Starfleet uniforms, a damn sight close, but not exactly, and they had badges pinned to their uniforms, which Lore's saw with his keen vision, which clearly said - POLICE - Lore cursed himself for making such a mistake. If he hadn't been in such a damn panic, he would have realized - needless to say he was utterly relieved that Starfleet wasn't here. Lore watched the police drag off the struggling man.
"They've got him!" Seth exclaimed. "That's the man who escaped! Oh, that's a relief. I hope they lock him up for good. It'd good to feel safe again."
You're tellin' me! Lore thought, as he followed Seth down another corridor. This place seemed to have more corridors than the Enterprise. Seth stopped at a closed door.
"You may not like what you are about to see."
"Is it really that gross a job?" Lore thought it may have something to do with dissecting animals. He'd never liked the notion, feeling like a dissected animal himself.
"Take a look for yourself." Seth opened the door to reveal a children's classroom with no less than 29 little ones uncontrollably running about yelling, screaming, making one Hades of a ruckus. Seth closed the door.
"Do you think you can handle them?"
"... uhh .... Sure."
"You're either desperate for a job, insane or desperate to get away from your brother."
Lore smiled. "All of the above."
Seth smiled. "You're prefect."
Another smile touched Lore's lips and he tried to think of how he could manage the children appropriately. And how long he would have to do the job before he could blow the joint. Seth opened the door again. As before the children were running about and screaming all over the place, practically falling over one and other. They seemed to quieten down a little when they saw Seth.
"This is your new teacher," she said. "His name's Lore.
L-o-r-e." Seth turned to Lore. "They're all yours, the little darlings. Good luck."
Lore smiled. Seth seemed to care about them, as noisy as they were. Before he could ask her exactly what he should do, she was gone. The children seemed to have calmed and were looking expectantly up at Lore. He looked at them all, taking in their faces, and he noticed one small girl, sitting alone in the corner, by a long, high set of ugly grey lockers. clutching a dirty white teddy bear and a purple toy car. She looked at him, only for a moment, then looked very withdrawn, as if she didn't want anyone to see her. Lore saw how uncomfortable she felt and was beginning to feel uncomfortable himself and decided to leave her be for the time being.
"Are you our new teacher?" one boy asked.
"Uh .. I think so," Lore said, which brought a few giggles.
Lore looked around at the children again. Ironic, he thought, how he could command and lead the Borg, one of the most feared races in the Galaxy and he hadn't a clue how to manage twenty nine rowdy children, but he smiled. There's a first time for everything. Lore was sure being strict, stern and ordering them about would make the children dislike him and be afraid of him, and he didn't want that. He wanted them to like him, if that was possible, he hoped.
"Well ... Seth told you my name's Lore," he said to the class, not knowing what else to say.
"Good morning, mister Lore," the children chided.
Lore smiled. "No, Just Lore."
Lore's didn't want to admit it, but he felt very uncomfortable, insecure and unsure of what to do. He felt awkward telling the children what to do and didn't even know exactly what he wanted them to do. They were still quite restless and noisy, but Lore felt he could bear that. It was better than being disassembled. He sat on the teacher's stool.
"Are you going to read us a story?" one girl asked.
"What's your name?" Lore said, looking at her.
"Selma," she replied. "The books are behind you."
Lore turned around and saw a whole stash of children's books on the shelf. He pulled one out and read the title to himself. "The day the girl ran away because her father lost her dog. And she was really angry." It was the most ridiculous title he'd ever heard and was about to put the book back on the shelf, but remembered something his father once told him about not judging a book by its cover, so he flipped through the short picture book. "Definitely not as bad as the cover - it's worse." Lore looked at the other books, but they all had ridiculous sounding titles. Who writes this crap?!
The children seemed to want a story read to them, so Lore opened the book began to read to read the story about the angry girl and the lost dog, and showed the class the terrible pictures.
"One day, the little girl was sitting in front of the house and her father came out and she said, 'Daddy I hate you for losing our dog.'
'But I have not lost the dog.'
'You did last time and I know you will again.'
And that is exactly what did happen. The father lost the dog and the girl was really angry. Then she ran away to find the dog and she found the dog and came back home again and they all lived happily ever after. The end."
"Puh-leese!" Lore said softly. "Gimme a break!"
"That's not in the story," Yumi said.
"What story?" Lore asked.
And they laughed. That tiny piece of prose (if you could call it that) was written on 20 pages with horrendous drawings of revolting colors. "Talk about wasting paper!" Lore looked at the children.
"Do you have a favorite?" he asked.
"No," Zoisite said, they've all been read to us before."
Well Lore wasn't about to waste his or their time by telling them any more stupid stories they'd heard God knows how many times.
"You're supposed to give us our lunches," Meada said.
"They're over there," Soales said, pointing to the far corner of the classroom, where some brown paper bags lay in a yellow basket. Lore walked to the lunches, followed by all the children, except the girl in the corner. He picked up the basket, full of brown paper bags. The children began ripping open their bags. The lunches were all boring looking sandwiches, all the same except for one.
"Not fair! You got the chocolate cake last time!"
And they fought over that. Lore was about to quieten them down when he noticed the girl in the corner wasn't there anymore. He was puzzled, as he hadn't noticed that she'd moved. Although he wouldn't admit it, he felt a little worried. He turned his attention back to the children, making one hell of a mess. They were eating politely enough, but looked very grubby and that had finally decided who got the chocolate cake - the carpet.
Lore looked back to the corner and was astonished to see the girl back there with her lunch bag, quietly nibbling, seeming content, but she still looked very withdrawn, perhaps by a past experience or fear? Lore decided not to disturb her.
While the children were eating, Lore began looking at the other books in the classroom, not story books, but textbooks - all of which were incredibly basic as far as he was concerned.
Later, Lore found himself cleaning up after the children, which he found annoying, but couldn't help seeing the amusement in it and he looked at them.
"You're supposed to eat your lunch, not wear it."
The children giggled at that. Selma went to the cupboard and brought out some wet wipes for the others. They began roughly wiping their hands and faces and throwing the dirty towels away. Lore finished gathering all the empty lunch bags and dirty towelettes and putting them through the narrow hole in the garbage bin, which churned up the rubbish, then he turned to the children.
"Help me out here," he said. "What was the last thing your last teacher taught you, so we can take off from there?"
"We can't remember," Merli said. "The other teacher didn't like us and went away. Our books are there."
She pointed to a pile of text books. Lore took them of f the shelf and had a quick flip through them. He was surprised at the messy writing and incorrect answers to very basic questions and arithmetic, but didn't say anything about it and handed the books out. He also noted the books had been marked, but nothing had been done about the incorrect answers. He saw the books were almost full and made a note to get some from the stationary room.
"So we'll start at the beginning ..." he said, pulling out the first on the arithmetic book series.
"We've done that one," Darius said.
"Do you understand it?" Lore asked.
"And we've done it."
"Do you understand how to do it?"
"It's about numbers and stuff."
Lore smiled. "Well, do you know how to work out the numbers and stuff?"
Darius shook his head and Lore nodded.
"Well there's no point in going further ahead until you do understand it, otherwise none of you will understand anything."
"The other teachers just said to do it, and didn't say anything about understanding it."
Lore may not have been the most experienced teacher in the universe, but he did know teachers were meant to teach.
"That's the whole point of learning," he told the children. "There's no point if you don't understand it."
Darius and the other children seemed to understand what Lore was driving at.
"Now, if you'll all wait here, I've got to get some things."
Lore stood up and exited the classroom.
He found Seth in her office.
"What can I do for you?" she smiled.
"I need a little help ..."
Lore took a breath. He didn't feel comfortable asking others for help.
"Yes?" Seth asked.
"First of all, I'm supposed to read them stories, but they've all been read before and all of those books are so .. so ... I don't mean to offend, but they're pathetic."
Seth sighed and nodded. "They're all like that."
"And," Lore continued after a pause, "I looked through their exercise books and almost everything was wrong - and it wasn't corrected properly."
Seth nodded, seemingly embarrassed. "No one holds much hope for those children," she said. "No teacher had really cared enough to sit down and explain things to them."
"But how are they supposed to learn anything?"
Seth was silent and Lore could tell she was upset.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to-"
Seth waved a hand, cutting him off. "No, it's not that. It's just so hard, that's all."
Lore waited for a few moments and then continued. "I found the text books and I've an idea where I'll start, but what else do I have to do? They've eaten their lunches and-"
"Have you never taught before?"
"Well no ..." Lore said. All of a sudden, he wished he hadn't said that. He wanted to keep this job, however weird and different it was from what he was accustomed to.
"No matter," Seth said. "As long as you don't quit. I've become so desperate for someone to teach them. We haven't had a teacher in a while, so I've ben looking after them, but I'm so busy, having a whole school to run. I wish I could teach them it myself, but I can hardly handle any more responsibilities."
"I won't quit," Lore said, much to Seth's relief.
"Thank you. You also have to supervise them during play time and craft time. Play time is the time they're given to play with the toys that are supplied and craft time is when they're allowed to make things. The supplies are in the large cupboard near the door. You also have to clean up after them. Sometimes they'll clean their own mess and put away their things, but don't hold your breath. Their lunches come through the chute into the basket. Their breakfasts and dinners come through chutes in their dining room, next to their bedrooms.
"Dining room? Bedrooms? You mean they live here?"
Seth nodded. "No one cares about them. I do, but I don't have the time or the energy to be with them all the time. When I came to the school, I set up resources to teach and help unwanted children. All of them have learning or physical disabilities and are unwanted by their parents."
Lore felt something inside him twinge as Seth went on.
"It pained and sickened me to see so many of these children left to die, or to fend for themselves. They never had anywhere to go, and so I set up this facility in the school to look after them. It surprised the whole community, and I'm glad to say, opened their eyes a little to what was happening. It's not as bad as it used to be, but no one wants to love or teach them. They believe it's a waste of time, and the children don't think anyone cares about them either, which is unfortunately mostly true. And so they're uncooperative, loud and noisy and most other teachers can't be bothered with them. Little Selma, for example has ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder, making her forgetful and she finds learning very difficult, and she gets upset easily, but she's very helpful."
"I noticed that," Lore said. "I've heard of ADD. Where I come from, a permanent cure was discovered for it."
Seth smiled. "At least there's care for disabled people somewhere in the Universe. Here, children with disabilities are looked upon as being stupid no hopers that won't get anywhere, and yet they create such beautiful things and are quite intelligent, but express it in different ways. Physical deformities/disabilities are extremely rare on Magratica, but I'm afraid there are many more people with learning disabilities."
Lore nodded. He'd never given much thought to people with disabilities, but he hadn't discriminated either, and he didn't think it was right to reject anyone. He'd had a gut full of rejection in his life. He'd been against all biological life forms for they way humans had treated him, but was beginning to realize that they all weren't responsible for what had happened to him. Perhaps he would get another chance. Perhaps this was his other chance and he was determined not to balls it up.
"I want to help them," he said. He'd felt rejected all his life - unwanted and uncared for and he wasn't going to reject these children. He was going to help them, be there for them, help them and hoped they would do the same for him.
"Thank you," Seth said, sincere. "It's not often one comes across someone like you."
Lore smiled. "So what do I have to do?"
"Well," Seth said, "next to the bedroom are bathrooms. The children always bath after dinner. They love it. Just make sure they're all organised. They're capable of bathing themselves. Put all their dirty day clothes in the cleaning machine. It washes and dries. Their night clothes and bed clothes get washed once a week and are placed on their beds. Each child has a few sets of day clothes and they wear what they like. They do sleep when they're tired and they're not too noisy at nighttime. I'll give you a timetable and a list of past teachers - and see if you can organize the classroom. I know it's a right mess in there, but I really want those children to be someone. I wish I could help them more."
"You're doing enough," Lore said.
Seth smiled as Lore turned to leave. "Oh," she added. "Forgive my memory. Your room is the first room after the dining room. The walls are all soundproof, so even if the children do make a frightful ruckus, it won't bother you. I'm sorry about all this," Seth confessed. "I've had so much on my mind, I've hardly told you anything. This is a live-in position. All your meals are provided and -"
"I don't need to eat," Lore said.
"What? But how do you -?"
"None of my people need to eat," Lore said. "It's just the way we are."
"Oh," Seth said, impressed. "The food was included in the teacher's wages, but since you don't need any In that case, we can pay you more. The wages are processed on Threeday and the money goes into your account on each Fourday and the money is yours to do with as you please."
Lore smiled. Although he had little or no need for money, he liked the idea of getting paid for his work. He hadn't even considered it until Seth mentioned it.
"Thank you," he said. I would also like to borrow a camera... I'm not sure what you call them here, but something to take pictures of the classroom if you have one."
"I can lend you this picture-recorder from the photography class, with color film," Seth said, pulling it out from under her desk.
"Thanks," Lore said with a smile. "Just one more question. Who's the little girl who sits in the corner?"
Seth looked sad. "Roshana. She's the most withdrawn person I've ever come across. Her mother died at birth and her father was very brutal. He assaulted her both physically and sexually. And by the law of this planet, Magratica, it's not illegal, because she has a neurological disorder."
Lore was disgusted, and by the tone of Seth's voice, he could tell, so was she.
"Roshana came here by herself," Seth said. "She ran in screaming and we took her in. She was scared of me at first, but she allowed me to take her into a classroom. She wouldn't let any of the teachers or students near her. She's scared of everyone. Her father must never know she's here, otherwise he will take her, and there will be nothing we can do about it. Roshana doesn't like others being near her. She does everything herself. She's capable of feeding and bathing herself, and she does it alone. Don't approach her, she'll be terrified and start screaming. I know you don't have any bad intentions toward her, but she doesn't. She sleeps by herself in the classroom, and don't take her stuffed bear, dog, or car away. I just let her have them. Strictly speaking, they belong to the school, but they're always with her and she cries when they're taken away. There are toys for the other children to play with, and whatever you do, don't touch her in any way. One of the previous teachers, Mr. Clancy, tried to make her join the class. He picked her up and carried her, and by the Gods, even the soundproof walls weren't enough. The poor girl was absolutely terrified, screeching and clawing at him. I came in, took her from him, still sobbing and laid her back down in her corner, She grabbed her toys, ran behind the lockers and wouldn't come out for days. I could hear her grunting and scratching the carpet. She always does that when she's angry, and I could also hear her crying. The poor girl was so frightened. Mr Clancy left pretty much soon after, because the class wouldn't do what he wanted them to do. He was too strict if you ask me. So, just leave Roshana be. Some of the other children have offered to play with her, but she's refused. They like her, but know pretty much to leave her alone, because that's what she thinks she wants. She's okay there. She doesn't trust anyone. She's okay with me, but still likes to be alone."
Lore nodded, really wanting to help Roshana. He wanted her to know that he wanted to help her and didn't want her to be afraid of him and tried to think of ways to approach this delicate situation.
"I hope you do stay," Seth said.
"I will," Lore promised - and he felt he had to. He would not let Seth or the children down and reject them as others had done, as others had done to him. What would that teach them? Lore felt he couldn't let anyone endure that pain. They hid their pain well, as Lore did, but it was there, and now Lore knew the only way to cope with it was to work with it and he was going to help the children and himself do that.
He returned to the classroom and found the children all over the place, yelling, screaming, playing with the toys, and they had pulled a whole pile of papers and books out of the low shelving and had covered the floor. Lore half smiled. Something's telling me, this is not going to be easy ... He sighed as he gathered the papers and put them neatly back on the shelf. These kids didn't seem to be in the mood for maths. Despite his numerous attempts to quieten them down, nothing seemed to work. Lore didn't want to get angry at them for disobeying, but he at least wanted some order here. He wanted to do his job right. He sat down for a while on his stool and watched the children play. He had his back to Roshana, who was quietly rolling her car along the carpet and playing with her bear. Lore was unaware that she gave him a few curious glances, but remained withdrawn and timid.
Lore checked the time. It was time for the children's school day to finish and for them to have some time to themselves, then eat their dinner, have their baths and go to sleep. Lore was angry with himself for not planning the day and having little idea of what he was supposed to be doing.
He planned to make up a timetable for the next day and hoped to teach the children what other teachers had not cared to.
The children were eager for their dinner, and they either left their toys scattered on the floor in the classroom, and took some into the dining room. Lore put away the worse for wear toys and came into the dining room. He saw the large, wooden dinner table and saw the packed dinners arriving through a chute. The dinners were small, but at least it was something. Lore figured they may have some form of a primitive replicating device. He opened up one of white oblong dinner packages as the children opened theirs. All the dinners were the same, and looked rather boring and repulsive. Some form of overcooked meat with some rather sad looking over boiled vegetables in a sickly looking white sauce. Lore observed the eating utensils. Exactly the same as the ones he'd seen humans use, the handles more curved. The natives of Magratica, appeared human, but their genetic structure differed. Lore watched the children sit at the table and hungrily devour the food.
These poor people ... they're hungry enough to eat this crap.
"Aren't you going to eat something?" One of the children observed.
Lore didn't want to touch it, but thought he may as well. The dinner was as tasteless as it looked and Lore didn't want to finish it. He gave it to the children, who began a food fight with it.
At least they put it to good use! Lore smiled.
Even the so called 'chocolate cake' pieces the children received for desert were void of taste.
These poor children have probably never tasted proper food, "Aren't you hungry?" Persephone asked. "You didn't eat much."
"I don't need to eat," he said.
"Oh," Persephone said, surprised, and to Lore's surprise, the child didn't question him any further.
The children accepted that without a second thought, whereas an adult would probably do a double take and probe him on why he did not need sustenance.
Lore saw another spare dinner and 'desert' and he thought of Roshana. She had not joined them for dinner, so he assumed she would get hers later. None of the other children took it, which made Lore smile. They had respect for each other and they seemed to care for one and other and look out for one and other - after all they were all here together.
The children had left an awful mess on the table, not to mention on themselves and the floor, as Lore expected. He saw a disposal bin and began disposing of the empty dinner and desert cartons. He placed them in the square hole at the top of the disposal unit which ground up the junk inside. Lore looked down into the hole and with his android vision, saw sharp blades cutting up the rubbish.
"It recycles the rubbish," Ryan, one of the boys told him, so we can use it again. It's better because it doesn't cost as much money because we can use it over and over again."
Lore smiled at that. He knew what recycling was of course, but little Ryan sounded so proud that he knew all about it and the concept of money. This was a backward planet - they still used money of all things, but nevertheless, Lore wanted more than anything to help these little children, and right now it was time for their baths, and boy did they need them! They had more food on them than in their stomachs!
Lore found the bathrooms, next to the bedroom. There were two rather dirty looking rooms with large baths. He saw some dirty broken bath toys in the rooms, then saw how to operate the baths. It was quite self explanatory. He plugged the hole and pressed the button to start the water flowing and would automatically turn off when the bath was full. The water was at a constant lukewarm temperature. Lore felt it was a bit cold, but there was no way he saw to regulate it. Seth had said they were capable of bathing themselves, which relieved him, because he wouldn't know what to do if he'd had to bathe them children. The children heard the water running and came screaming and yelling into the bathroom. The sight of twenty nine naked children running amok made Lore even more uncomfortable. He left the bathrooms, relieved to leave the children to their bathing. He saw they'd left their dirty clothes in a unsightly heap next to the cleaning machine. Lore sighed, bundled them up in his arms, opened the top of the machine and loaded the clothes and shoes inside. They weren't very smelly, Lore noted, just filthy from the food and mucking around all day. He flipped through the cleaning machine manual, and operated the machine.
"This cycle will tale approximately thirty minutes," the machine said in a feminine voice.
"A talking washing machine," Lore smiled. "What next?
He heard the children playing and splashing about in the bath tubs.
Half an hour later, Lore unloaded the cleaning machine. The clothes were all clean and dry. Lore separated them and took them into the bedroom and put them in the cupboard. The children's names were printed in their beds. There were some beds with no names, and Lore guessed they were spare beds for new children. He also noticed the dining, bed and bathrooms were all dimly lit and looked quite depressing. There was no way he could see to brighten the light and felt sorry for the children having to live like this.
The children began to come out of the bathrooms all clean and dry, with thin, torn towels wrapped around their bodies. They followed each other into the bedroom and started to change into their pyjamas, and climbing into their beds while Lore took the towels back into the bathroom and hung them up. Lore came back into the bedroom and saw the children looking rather tired, not that a child would ever admit such a thing. They talked and played with each other. Lore felt it wasn't his place to tell them to turn off the lights and go to bed. They'd do that when they were ready.
He walked into the eating room, cleaned the table and the floor where the mess had dropped, then retreated into the room he had been given. It was adequately sized, but as dark and dingy as the rest of the place. Lore found the lighting annoying. Although he did not need it to be brighter and could see perfectly in total darkness, he preferred places to be brightly lit. Although he didn't need to rest, today had been, well ... trying and Lore welcomed a lie down. He turned on the lamp beside his bed which practically did nothing to increase the illumination. He found the light it shed even more irritating, annoying and distracting, so he turned it off again. He lay in the bed he'd been given, bored. Then he began thinking of what he could do to help the children, apart from helping them with their school work. They were going to have to learn how to look after themselves when they left school and Lore had learned that native Magratican children grew much faster than human children. He went to check on the children who, by now seemed to have all gone to sleep. He smiled and returned to his room and planned a few things in the children's best interests, and planned how to get them interested too. Lore's ears perked when he heard water running in one of the bathtubs, then he relaxed. It must be Roshana. He thought and decided it would be best to leave her to it. Although Roshana hardly made any noise, with his android hearing, Lore heard a splish splash or two and reasoned that she would probably have had her dinner.
She's like a little mouse, he thought to himself and smiled.
A little while later, Lore heard the bath water drain out. He could hear through he soundproof walls if he wished it, and he caught a brief glimpse of a figure rush past his slightly ajar door, and into the classroom.
"I'd love to get to know her," Lore whispered to himself.
He lay in the bed and stared up at the ceiling, bored again. He'd planned a few things and had pretty much planned most of what he was going to do and he began to wish he needed to go to sleep to pass the time, and then he thought about Data. He remembered his brother had tried sleeping from time to time, after all, Lore was capable of it, but he'd never deemed it necessary. Lore also wondered if his father had given him a dream program as he had Data. I guess now's the time to find out. Lore pulled the covers over him, lay on his side, snuggled up and closed his eyes. He moderated his breathing, and even tried snoring, but it irritated him, so he stopped. He then shut down all his nonessential systems so he would not be disturbed, and he discovered that he most definitely had a dream program, so he began to dream.
* * *
Lore awoke that morning, feeling fresh, happy and looking forward to what his future held, which was a first - and it was a wonderful feeling - and the dream he had the night before - his very first dream. Yes, he most certainly hoped it came true.
Lore found he had woken before the children. He walked into the dining room and saw the children's breakfasts had come down the chute, so he arranged them on the table. Some kind of boring flakes in a tasteless liquid, which was supposed to be milk. Lore smiled, for no apparent reason at all. He felt this was going to be a really good day. He began to take a few photos of the messy shelves and the rest of the classroom, being careful not to disturb Roshana's sleeping
The children were up and dressed and in no time, devouring their breakfasts. They weren't very messy this morning, apart from a few dribbles of the white water milk and a few flakes going awol. It pleased Lore, not that he was a fuss pot, but the less chores, the better.
Lore sat on the stool in the classroom and the children sat in front of him, except for Roshana, who wasn't in the classroom, so Lore guessed she was eating her breakfast, and he was right. Not soon after, she darted from her spot back to her corner, in front of the lockers. Lore wanted so much to talk to her and for her to join the others, but didn't want to frighten or force her. He turned his attention back to the other children and began to put his plan into action. He stood up and began to look at the shelves behind him. Actually, they were like a long open cupboard, stretching from the back wall of the classroom to the wall at the entrance -and it was literally chock-a-block full with all sorts of stuff.
"They threw away a picture I made."
Lore recognised the voice as Selma, and by her tone, she didn't sound happy.
"There was no room, so they threw a lot of our paintings and things away."
Lore turned around to see Selma scowling.
"That's no good," he said. "What's all this stuff in here anyway?"
"Teacher stuff," replied Darien. "Story books and our old work books."
Lore began to pull the numerous amount of working books out. There were at least five for each child, for different subjects. He flipped through most of them rater quickly and found similar results as with the maths books. Incorrect answers, silly theories and the teachers hadn't cared less to mark them properly. Lore found that each child had a journal book. He opened one and flipped through it, noting it contained personal memories, stories the children had written and some pictures they had drawn. And all of the stories were better than the stupid one he'd read the other day. Lore handed the journal books out to the children. One thing they couldn't be wrong about was their personal memories and feelings. They were their own. Their punctuation and spelling and writing left a lot to be desired, but Lore would come to that later. Some of the stories were silly and unrealistic, but these were children and life could even be silly and unrealistic at times.
"My special book!" Selma exclaimed as Lore handed it to her. "I thought they threw it away!"
Out of the corner of his eye, Lore saw Roshana's head snap up and look toward him and the class. It seemed as if she never paid attention, but when Lore looked at her, she looked afraid and then looked away, withdrawn and buried her face in her teddy bear. Not wanting her to feel any more uncomfortable, Lore looked to the class and handed out the rest of the books. The last one he had in his hands was Roshana's. Although he was tempted to read it, he sensed she wouldn't want him to, and he respectfully put it aside on the shelf.
He then took a huge pile of papers out and began flipping through them. He saw names on them which he didn't recognise, and saw that almost the whole shelf and some of the bottom shelves were taken up by similar papers, some documents thicker than others.
"Whose are these?" he asked.
"Those are things on the teachers we had before," Yumi said. "And the work they made us do."
Lore flipped through more of the papers. No wonder these children learned nothing - it's a pile of crap and soooo boring! The papers also consisted of dull, mundane essays the teachers had no doubt written, and their achievements. What a bunch of geeks, Lore thought. And why should we keep stuff on teachers who have long since buggered off? Lore remembered what Selma had said about the children not having enough room to put their craft work and things away. This place was meant to help the children not to store junk of no use to them.
"We don't need this stuff," Lore said. "We need more room for your things."
The children could hardly believe their ears.
"The paper goes in the recycling machine," Ryan said, pointing.
Lore looked. The machine was concealed, built into the shelving. Interested, he approached it.
"How does it work?" he asked and he felt pleased with himself. He hadn't felt embarrassed to ask that question, after all he'd never seen one of these machines before and was quite intrigued.
"You put the paper in the hole at the top. We aren't allowed to use it, and we can't reach it anyway," Ryan said, sounding disappointed. "The machine chops the paper up, makes it wet, and then makes it flat and then dries it and new paper comes out there." He pointed to a chute at the side of the bottom of the machine, with a catching tray.
Clever, Lore thought.
"It saves money," Selma said.
These children may have learning disabilities, but they understand the importance of money and you need money to survive on Magratica. This may be a backward world, Lore thought, but at least they accept me here, which is more than I can say for any civilised society.
"Well," Lore said, "does it still work?"
Ryan nodded. "It hasn't been used in a long time, but it isn't broken."
Lore looked at him and smiled. Ryan was very enthusiastic, and helpful, as was Selma. So what if they had learning disabilities?
"Can you show me how to use it?" Lore asked.
"The button is at the top," Ryan said, pointing.
Lore smiled and picked him up. "Can you turn it on?" He could see how to work it, but thought it would be good for the children.
"But I'm not allowed to."
"Who told you that?"
"The teacher before you. He was bossy and mean."
"Okay," Lore said, "who's your teacher now?"
"And I said that you can turn it on if you want to."
Ryan smiled. " Really?"
Ryan smiled as he leaned forward and pressed the green "on" button.
"It takes about ten minutes to warm up," he said. "Thank you for letting me turn it on."
Lore smiled. "It's fine."
He could hear the machine churning away and despite himself he was eager to use it. Listening to the machine bubbling away reminded him of a phrase in an old Earth play. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble .... and Lore grinned. He turned his attention back to the children and all the junk papers in the classroom.
"Well, let's get rid of all this sh- ... uh, junk. Start with this old teacher's stuff."
Selma stomped on some papers of Mr. Holman. She obviously didn't like the man, and there was another teacher called Gloria - the children didn't think much of her either. Lore began piling up the junk papers on the floor. He kept the information on the children, and began piling the junk papers into the machine. He also put all the children's exercise books into it, except for the journals. The books were of no use, since all the answers were wrong, some barely legible. It was clear he would have to start from scratch. He left the text books on the shelf. He'd need to use them. The next pile of books were those pathetic children's story books. He kept one for future comparison and to show others what crap it was in the hope of an improvement. Seth had told him that no one cared much about children with disabilities, and the general assumption was that they were all stupid no hopers, incapable of understanding anything or contributing to society in any way, so the stories written for them were not thought out, anything went. Lore felt that was more a reflection of the publishers and writers, since they obviously knew bugger all.
"Those are story books," Winona told him. We have to keep them.
"Because we're supposed to read them or have the stories read to us."
"They've all been read to you," Lore said. "Hands up anyone who likes the stories."
Not a single arm was raised.
"Ryan, can the machine take cardboard?" Lore asked. Most of the books were hard cover. He was pretty sure the machine could handle it, but wanted to be sure.
The little boy nodded. "It also filters out things like plastic and staples and other stuff."
Lore smiled. Ryan was really enthusiastic about the recycling machine. Lore looked into the machine, which seemed ready to be fed again, so he began pushing in the useless papers and books. The hard cover books were too large to go into the hole at the top, so Lore and the class had great fun ripping the covers up. Lore saw the machine was asking him if he wanted lined or unlined paper. He thought for a moment and decided to get half and half. The children were excitedly handing him more and more papers. Lore saw Roshana watching them with interest. He so much wanted her to join them, but knew if he asked her or even if she saw him looking at her, she would become withdrawn again. Lore looked away, but it was nice to see her excited. He turned his attention back to the dwindling stack of paper. He let the children put some into the machine. He noticed it was almost full and waited a while before putting any more in. He looked inside the machine, saw the blades shredding the paper, the warm water making a pulp. He shoved the last remnants of paper into it.
"That's all of it," he said, making a mental note that he needed five more sets of exercise books for the children.
Lore heard a strange noise come from the paper recycling machine and saw that it had finished. He looked at the piles of paper it had produced - white, thin and very useable.
Half lined, half unlined as he'd requested. He stacked the paper on the floor, then looked at the shelves.
They still looked ugly and he decided what to do. He ripped off the filthy, murky orange green shelf covering, from the three shelf levels, flattened it into a ball, as small as he could make it and threw it into the bin. The shelf's natural wood looked so much better and Lore wondered why they would cover it with such gunk.
He brought out a bucket of warm, soapy water. Lore couldn't find any cleaning liquid soap, so he used shampoo instead. It was as good as any, and he brought out some cloths. He and the children began wiping the shelves. The white cloths became black cloths very soon. The shelves were absolutely filthy. Lore changed the water and cloths more times that he cared to count. 39, actually.
"Okay now, what else needs cleaning up?" He looked around and saw a large beige metal cupboard near the front door to the classroom. "What's in there?"
"That's the art and craft cupboard," Darien said.
Lore walked over to it and opened the door. Inside hid the most disorganised storage facility Lore had ever seen, but he could see the cupboard was mostly fully stocked, even although the stuff was all over the place in there. He figured the children liked craft work and so he wanted to sort this mess out. He pulled out a tub of glue and practically had to tear the lid off, and when he did, he found the glue all caked together, hard as a rock. He found all the glue pots and tubes in similar conditions.
"Ryan," he said, "can we recycle plastics?"
The little boy nodded. "But we have to use the recycling machine in the food room."
Selma was looking restless and fiddling, with a chewed drinking straw, so Lore thought it best to give her something to do.
"Selma," he said, her head instantly snapped up, "can you please bring me that garbage bin over there?"
Selma nodded, jumping up and doing as Lore asked. She began to drag the bin, then put her arms around it and carried it to Lore. The android thanked her and threw the glue containers in there. He peered in the cupboard and saw a scrawny cardboard box, stained with texta leakage, every color under the sun had conglomerated here. In the box were crayons, melted together, of a poor, greasy quality, hardly any of the textas had lids and the pencils were very grubby, dull colors and crappy quality, so Lore threw the entire box in the bin. He saw more rubbishy drawing utensils scattered throughout the cupboard and ditched them as well and made a mental note to get craft supplies.
He and the children also washed out the art and craft cupboard, which wasn't as dirty, but some ink stains were harder to remove. Lore managed to get them off, and began to wipe the dirty water off the shelves and brought out new cloths for drying the shelves. Lore threw away all the dirty cloths and cleaned the bowls. After that was done, he and the children stacked the paper well in the shelves and it took up surprisingly less room. Then, Lore took out the toy box and told each child to take their favorite toy, which they did, and there was fighting, because there weren't enough toys to go around.
"It's all right," Lore said, "you can share the toys."
He noticed some toys had been left in the box, some broken plastic toys and some scrawny, dirty stuffed animals with the stuffing coming out.
"Does anybody play with these?" he asked.
"No," Selma said.
Lore began to throw the broken toys in the garbage bin. The last one was a scrawny yellow ... actually well grey dog with its ears, arms and legs off. Lore found the severed limbs in the basket. He looked at the dog's face and decided not to throw it out. It's eyes looked sad and unwanted. Lore didn't want to admit it, but he felt sorry for the little thing and put it on the top shelf.
"Right," he said, "we're going to need some new things."
"Can we make a list?" Selma said.
"It's all right, Selma. I can remember everything we need."
"But can we still make a list?"
Lore looked at her and smiled. She was so eager and excited, so Lore handed her a piece of the newly recycled lined paper and a pen. Selma smiled, lay on her stomach on the floor and set the paper out before her.
"Okay," Lore said, "are you ready?"
Selma looked up at him and nodded. "Don't talk too fast, though."
Lore smiled and began with adequate pausing, watching Selma write. "We need ... five pots of glue ... 5 sets of colored textas and pencils ... a big pencil box, wood or plastic ... blank art paper ... one hundred exercise books..."
"One hundred!" Selma exclaimed. "That's a lot!"
Lore nodded. "You each need an exercise book for each different subject. There may be a few left over, but we need quite a lot ... okay, we also need..." Lore made a quick calculation, "thirty bright light globes." He watched as Selma wrote that down. "Selma," he said, "also write toys."
The little girl smiled as she wrote that.
"Okay," Lore said, "that's all for now."
Selma stood up and gave the list to Lore. Her writing was messy, and had numerous spelling mistakes, but nothing Lore couldn't handle!
"Now, you guys all wait here," he said, "while I go and get these things." Lore stood and walked toward the door.
"Do you need some help carrying the things?"
Lore recognised Selma's voice. She'd come up to him. "No thanks," he said, with a smile, ruffling her long red hair. He liked her. She was always so helpful.
Lore confronted Seth with the list.
"I'm most impressed," Seth said. "No teacher has bothered to do this before. I can give you the art supplies, the exercise books and the stationary. I'll also give you a bulk stationary kit with pens, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, stick tape, a stapler and the like. I'll also give you a large plastic container for the art supplies. Seth opened the cupboard and began stacking the things Lore needed in a large box. "You'll need some help with that. It's very heavy."
Lore smiled. "Thanks, but I'll manage."
Seth watched Lore effortlessly pick up the box and walk off with it.
"If only there were more people like him," she said to herself.
Lore returned to the classroom with the box and set it down on the floor, then knelt beside it. The children excitedly gathered round. Lore watched them with a smile as he handed out the exercise books. He'd brought thicker exercise books, because the old ones were thin and filled up quite quickly. As he predicted, there were some left over. "There are five books for each of you," he said. Each was a different color. Lore also handed each of the children a pen. "Now, each of the books is for a different subject. Write your name on each of the books, where it says Name." Lore waited for all the children to name their books. He'd kept a set out for Roshana. "Now," he said, "on the blue book, write 'Maths'." Lore waited until they had finished, then told them to write 'Science' on the red books. He spelled out the word, because most of the children had trouble spelling. He told them to write 'History' on the green books, 'Journal' on the yellow ones and 'Society and Life' on the brown books. Although Lore didn't know much about society on Magratica - there were some basic text books on the subjects and Lore could request more and make his own observations. As for Life, he'd have to wing it for that one. He definitely didn't want the children to suffer as much as he had or get themselves into as much trouble as he had. He wanted to teach them to stand up for what they believed in - not to let others get them down, hurt them and walk all over them. He wanted them to enjoy life, and that would be very hard for him to teach, because he had yet to experience that himself and as for Magratica's 'society,' it had rejected these beautiful children. It was up to the people who cared to make a better, more aware society, and he told them that.
The children listened to Lore, and were also quite excited about their new stationary, scrambling around the box Lore had brought. All except Roshana. Lore discreetly stole a glimpse at her, and he saw how sad she looked. She so desperately wanted to join in the fun, but was so scared. Lore so much wanted her to join the others, but felt it would further alienate her if he tried. Perhaps she will in her own time.
Lore turned his attention to the other children. He took the colored pencils and textas, put them in the large plastic box and placed them in the art cupboard. He told the children to always put the lids back on the textas after they used them, so they wouldn't dry up, and to keep the pencils nice and sharp. He'd also managed to get large pencil cases for the children to store their own stationary in. Every child had ball point pens, grey pencils, erasers, a sharpener and ruler. Lore had written each child's name on their pencil case with a permanent black marker. He told them if they needed anything, just to ask him. They excitedly examined the contents of their colored pencil cases. Lore had told them to be careful with the sharp pencils. He'd made one up for Roshana and kept it for her. He stole another glimpse at her, and was astonished to discover she wasn't there. He scanned the whole classroom looking for her, but he couldn't see her and he hadn't heard any doors open. Then he remembered Seth telling him that Roshana sometimes went behind the lockers to hide. He increased his hearing and heard her breathing and sobbing ever so softly. He felt so much for her and wanted to much to go to her and help her, but told himself that would do neither of then any good at the moment. Lore returned his hearing to normal and began stacking the art paper in the cupboard. He noticed a box on the bottom shelf. Actually, he'd noticed it before, when he was cleaning the cupboard, but hadn't paid it much attention. He took it out now and saw it contained paintings and drawings on various sizes of paper. He recognised some of the names on them. Lore began handing out the names he knew. Selma and the others were delighted to see their pictures. Selma's was one she's done with wax droppings. She told Lore that she'd used a lit candle under supervision, then soaked the painting in purple paint water, waited for it to dry, then picked the wax off. 'Deer Lady' she called it, because that's exactly what it looked like.
The other children were also very happy to discover their artwork. They told Lore that the paintings with names he didn't recognise were done by children who had grown up and left the school, or children that had died. Lore put them back in the cupboard. For some reason, he didn't want to throw them away. Then he saw a beautiful painting at the bottom of the box, done in subtle orangy, brown watercolors. It was of a mechanical city, and he could see gentle robot faces within it, and an autumn, earthy colored landscape, surrounding the city. He looked at the name at the bottom of the picture - Roshana and he smiled. It was one of the most beautiful things he had ever seen. Lore placed it on top of the others. He wanted to give it to Roshana, but decided to leave it for now. He asked the children to stack their books on the shelves and remember where they put them.
"Well, that's about it for today," he said.
"But we haven't done any work," Jerika said.
Lore smiled. "I'd say we've done a lot of work. We've cleaned up the shelves and the cupboard, recycled all that junk, sorted out your books and stationary."
Jerika smiled. Lore lead the children into the back rooms for their dinner and baths. He looked into the classroom and saw Roshana was nowhere to be seen. He figured she was still behind the lockers and amplified his hearing to be sure. He heard her soft, gentle breathing, consistent with sleep. I'll leave her dinner out. She'll get it when she's ready.
Lore took the scrawny dog and its parts he'd saved from the toy basket and put it in his room. He walked into the children's bedroom and began examining the room.
Messy, he thought but hey - they're kids ... Lore noticed a blanket on one bed had large holes in it. All the blankets were thin and a dull grey color. Lore picked up the blanket only to discover it had more holes and was laddering in many places. He checked the blankets on the other beds and found that they were much the same. Lore was disgusted. He didn't blame Seth - she was doing everything she could for the children and the school funds were tight, but for children to live like this? It was rather cold at night on Magratica. It didn't bother him, but he'd made his mind up about what he was going to do. Buy new blankets for all the children. Their sheets needed replacing also, and as for the mattresses, they were so awkward, lumpy, hard and uncomfortable, he wondered how anyone could sleep on them - even his was uncomfortable, not quite as much as the children's and his blankets seemed okay, still the same dull color, but he had three of them. He didn't feel the teacher deserved any special treatment.
* * *
After Lore had worked for a fortnight, Seth handed him a small, rectangular shaped computerised device. "This is your credit computer," she said. "A handy little thing. When you buy things give the shopkeeper your credit number. They will access their computer and debit your account."
"Account?" Lore said, unsure.
"Yes, every person has an account with the main computer. The number of credits one earns, spends and saves is recorded. It's perfectly safe, or you can go to the bank to withdraw the actual credits."
"Thanks," Lore said, understanding, Seth, but not understanding why people should have to bother with money.
"Your pay both comes from the school and the government," Seth said. "You're paid more than the average teacher, because there's more work involved, during and after school. It is a very strenuous position. Some argue that the job should not be, because they don't believe these children have a place in society, but this is my school and I say what goes."
Lore nodded. "Good and I promise you, I won't let those children down."
Seth smiled warmly at him.
Lore returned to the classroom, brought out the toy box and
allowed the children to play.
"I'm going out for a while," he said. "I need to get some things and see what it's like out there. Can y'all stay good until I get back?"
The children giggled. Lore smile at them, then exited the room.
"I'm just going to look around the place," he told Seth. "I haven't had a chance to explore."
"By all means, but what of the-"
Lore smiled. "They're all right. I've left them with the toys and they know what to do with the lunches."
Seth laughed. "I'll keep an eye on them while you're away."
"Thanks," Lore said.
Lore walked out into the street and looked around. The place seemed relaxed and he observed the scenery. It was much like 20th Century Earth, which he'd been told about by his mother and father and he'd seen pictures and vids. As Lore walked down the street, he took in his surroundings. He saw many other people, going about their business, barely noticing him, for which he felt glad. He didn't want to stick out here. He didn't know if he belonged here or not, but he wanted to help the children, and he believed he could do that. He didn't want to feel out of place here. Lore looked at his credit computer. 1000 credits wa quite a lot, but he knew he would need much more fr what he needed. Lore tapped away on the computer, making his credit balance up to 5000, in such a way that the master computer never suspected a thing. He didn't want to make a habit of it, but those children needed a lot of things and Lore believed he was doing it for a good cause.
One interesting store caught his eye and he approached it. It was decorated with ornaments and trinkets of all sorts, hand crafted with wood, clay and other natural materials. The textures mainly consisting of browns, reds and natural earthy colors. Lore also saw woven mats, rugs and blankets displayed. Intrigued, he walked into the store and started to look around.
"May I help you?"
Lore turned to the owner of the voice and saw an attractive, slight, dark skinned woman, with an interesting forehead ridge, her black hair, tied back into a tight bun, and she wore a welcoming smile.
"Did you make these things?" Lore asked.
"Some of them. It's our family trade. My Mother, Father and Brother also hand craft and we sell them here."
"They're very nice," Lore said, and he meant it.
"Thank you," the woman smiled. "My name's Ananya."
"Mine's Lore," the android replied, grateful she was so pleasant, and he could tell it was not just because she wanted him to buy something.
"You're not from around here, are you?" she asked.
Lore shook his head.
"Neither am I. I was born here, but my parents used to trade with the Bajorans before the Cardassian invasion. It got too complicated, so my family settled here. We're originally from Nautalia. Much of the art is Nautalian, but a lot of it is from other cultures we encountered, like Bajoran, Terran, Cardassian, Pakled-"
"Pakled," Lore said, remembering how he had been with them for a time.
"Yes, this is a Pakled artifact."
Ananya showed Lore a rather weird looking sculpture. Lore remembered something like it on the Pakled ship he was on. Ananya put it back on the shelf. "My mother and I are quite fascinated with Earthen African artifacts."
Lore picked out some artifacts he liked, all form different cultures. "How much do you charge for your woven blankets?"
Ananya told him the price and Lore smiled. It was very reasonable as prices went on Magratica.
"Okay, now, I need Seventy."
Lore nodded. "Yeah, I'm working for the school and the children desperately need new blankets. I hope I haven't asked too much of you."
"Oh no," Ananya said. "We have about one hundred in various colors, but it's the first time anybody's wanted so many. They're over there."
Ananya pointed and Lore smiled. It was nice to encounter so many nice biological beings on the one planet. Lore knelt down and began to choose the blankets he wanted. He felt each child would need at least two, and he decided to get some spares, in case more children came. He chose all different colors, some browny, reddy earthy colors, some yellows, blues, greens, purples and oranges. There were so many different colors to choose from, each blanket woven with at least three different colors, some with patterns, some without. Lore chose two for himself. "These are great," he said. "Nice colors, and so thick and warm. Soft too."
Ananya beamed. "I love making them. I use a hand loom most of the time, but sometimes it's just nice to make them the old fashioned way, all by hand."
"You're a very crafty person." He also bought forty-one fitted hand died sheets for the children, all different colors. Some, tie died, some with multiple colors. Lore picked out forty-one matching pillow slips. One sheet and pillow slip for himself, even though he didn't really need one, he wanted his room to look nice. He ticked off in his head what he had bought and what he still needed. He also bought a few more trinkets from Ananya's shop. He felt grateful for this experience. He'd never felt impulsive in this way before. He'd never stopped to appreciate such things and now that he had, he couldn't believe how he had missed them in his life.
"Thank you," Ananya said, "from myself and my family. Your payment will help us in paying off our home and help us in other matters too."
Lore smiled. "I'm glad," and he was. He handed her his wage computer. Ananya entered the amount into her shop computer, neatly decorated with traditional artwork.
"You'll need to hire transport to remove your goods," she said.
Lore looked at his mound of blankets. Ananya had put his trinkets in a woven bag and placed it on top of the blankets. Physically, Lore could handle the weight, but the bulk and the awkwardness of it would cause problems, and there were some things he still needed.
"I have to get some other things," he said. "Would I be able to leave them here until later today?"
"Thanks," Lore said, "do you know where I can find a toy shop? I also need light globes and a heating unit."
"There's a toy shop across the way, and you can get the other things you need at the hardware store on the corner. If you don't mind me asking, are these things for the children too?"
Lore nodded. "They really need them."
"That's very kind of you," Ananya said, with a warm smile.
Lore smiled at her and left the shop.
It didn't take him long to reach the hardware shop. He picked out fifty long lasting light globes, the brightest ones there. He also piked up thirty six bedside lamps for the children. He bought a few spares of these as well, and one for himself. He also picked out four heater/coolers. To keep the children warm on the cold nights, cool on the hot ones. The sales attendant began smiled and began packing Lore's goodies in a large box.
"You can get a twenty percent discount on the light globes and lamps, because you're buying so many."
Lore thanked her and told her who they were for.
"That's nice," she said," it's good to have people who care."
Lore noticed that some people did care, but society as a whole, did not. And he was glad the people seemed to appreciate him here.
"I'll come around and get this stuff soon," he said, handing her his wage computer.
The sales assistant nodded and made the transaction.
Lore smiled. "I'll be back soon," and with that he was off on a mission - to the toy shop.
Lore saw so many things he wanted to buy here and he was glad he'd increased his credit. He spotted a small sewing kit with a needle and thread. which he grabbed and then began picking out all sorts of toy cars, small and large, dolls, toy robots, some great craft supplies, space ships, some the weirdest things he'd ever seen. Then he went to the stuffed toys and went absolutely mad. He bought a largish soft toy for every child and more for all of them to play with - all cute ones. He even bought himself a big brown teddy bear, which reminded him of an ancient 20th century toy bear his father had. Lore also collected a whole bunch of cute trinkets for the children to play with, and a lot of bottles of fun bubble bath and colored fun soap.
"It seems you know exactly what you want," the store keeper said.
Lore nodded and requested a large box, which was brought to him. He packed everything he'd picked out into the box and handed the man his wage computer. Lore stood at the counter and waited for the man to make the transaction.
"You're buying a lot of toys," observed a middle aged woman in the store.
Lore told her who they were for.
"Oh, I don't know why you bother," the woman scoffed. "They're not worth it. They're useless."
Lore fought his hardest to bite back an extremely caustic remark and he counted to ten in his head.
"They're good children," he said.
"But that have ... disabilities ... what good could they possibly be?"
"You're a very naive and rude person," Lore snapped. "I bet you had a wonderful childhood. Mummy and Daddy always getting you whatever you wanted, always there for you, caring for you when you needed them. I wonder how you'd feel if you had a disability and no one gave a damn about you." Lore stopped himself abruptly, calmed and then continued. "The children are living, sentient beings. They deserve the same as anyone else. It's not their fault the way they were born. They can't help it and they shouldn't be punished for it. They may have learning disabilities, but at least they know the meaning of compassion, care and love, and I suggest you learn them too. In my opinion, people like you are the ones with disabilities."
Seeing the expression on the woman's face made Lore proud of what he'd just said. He'd obviously given her a lot to think about. Good, he thought. He hadn't noticed the store keeper watching the argument with interest. Lore retrieved his wage computer, effortlessly lifted the huge box of toys he'd bought an walked out of the store, leaving the store keeper and the woman watching him in amazement.
Lore saw a discount furniture store across the street and headed there. On his way there, he saw a book shop and went inside. It was great to be sidetracked sometimes. He left the big box of toys he'd brought by the counter. He saw many good children's books here. Ones which were actually worth reading. Though he did see a nice new copy of the book about the angry girl and her dog and almost laughed.
He flipped through every good child's book in the store and left with a hefty stack of them, including some interesting books he'd bought for himself. He also bought text books for the children and books about Magratica, it's society, history and culture and books on other planet's as well. For some reason he wanted to teach them about the history, society and cultures of his Father's home world.
Lore couldn't forget, so he hadn't forgotten the furniture store. He put the box of books and toys by the counter. He ordered a large long table for the children to work on, plus forty chairs and also ordered thirty-five mattresses - a few would be spare. He tested all the mattresses in the shop until he found one that he liked best. He also ordered thirty-five pillows, as well as thirty-five bedside cabinets and six large modern looking wooden cupboards. The ones in the children's bedroom and his room were falling apart.
"I'd like it all delivered."
"Certainly, sir, where to?"
Lore gave him the address of the school. The assistant quoted a delivery charge, which Lore accepted and handed him the wage computer. Lore's credits had almost run out. He didn't want to make a habit of increasing it all the time and he had bought most of the things he needed. Clothes for himself and the children would have to wait until he got paid next.
Lore hired a large taxi cab. He stopped off at the hardware store and Ananya's shop, gathered his goodies and was driven
back to the school. The driver helped him unload. Lore paid him and took everything into the classroom. The children all looked very excited, even Roshana, peering from her corner.
"Okay," Lore said, "the first thing we have to do is move all the beds out of the bedroom. We'll put them in here for now." He hoped the furniture wasn't delivered until they were finished.
Lore took the dirty stuffed dog he'd put on the shelf into his room and put it on the bed and took the sewing kit out of his pocket and put it on his bed. The children began excitedly helping him. Selma was hauling a whole bunch of blankets out with an effort, dragging them along. Lore smiled. He did almost all of the work, but the children were happy to be helping. More than a few heads turned when they saw Lore carrying out four beds at once! Very soon they had the whole room clear. The children helped Lore take all the mattresses off the beds. Lore also cleaned out the contents of his room, the bed and the large, ugly cupboard. The doors were falling off and it had some either boring or hideous clothes inside. He also removed a bunch of other junk, including a pile of dull grey clothes left on the chair, probably from previous teachers. How could they wear this stuff? Lore needed some clothes, but he wasn't that desperate! The chair was in pretty good nick, so he decided to keep it. Previously he had asked Seth if they had any spare carpet. She had told him it was in the storage room at the end of the corridor, past the children's bathrooms. Lore found it and hauled out the huge rolled up carpet. It was a pleasant shade of brown, with a touch of cream. He also found a large carpet cutter and a nail gun. He took it to the children's cold wooden floored bedroom. After sweeping the floor, he began laying the carpet down, his measurements exact. He used the gun to bolt down the carpet, making sure the nails were right into the floor, so they wouldn't hurt anyone. Lore used the remaining block of carpet for his room and cut off the excess strips, which were few. He was glad it was enough! The dining room was already carpeted. Some of the children were watching him and some, excitedly jumping on the uncomfortable, some splitting apart mattresses.
"Okay," Lore said, coming out of his room. "The next thing we have to do is stack the mattresses on top of each other."
He knew he could do it himself, but the children were eager to help. Once they'd placed all the mattresses in a pile, Lore put the falling apart cabinets beside them, including the one from his room. He also placed all the old dirty, knobby, uncomfortable pillows by the mattresses. He picked up the old tearing bed sheets and blankets that had fallen off some of the mattresses and left them in a pile on top. He placed the old clothes from his room there too, and took the five falling apart cupboards next to the mattresses and the cumbersome, heavy, awkward one from his room. Lore began moving the beds back into the bedrooms before long gad them all back in there and they Lore waited around for the furniture delivery.
Lore was beginning to grow impatient, when they arrived. He helped them unload the mattresses and put them on the beds. He put the cupboards in the room and put the bedside tables by the beds. He stored the spare mattresses in the storage room at the end of the corridor.
The moving man unloaded the large white table and chairs.
"It's been a pleasure doing business with you, sir."
Lore managed a fake smile. He could tell by the man's tone - he only liked him for the money he spent there. "Sure, can you please remove all these old mattresses and broken furniture in your truck?"
"It'll cost you extra."
"How much?" Lore looked at his wage computer and saw he only had five credits left.
"Thirty five credits," the man replied.
"I only have five, after all this stuff I bought. I can pay you next week."
"Sorry, no can do. We need the credits up front."
"Your initial delivery charge should include the removal of old furniture," Lore snapped.
"Well, it doesn't."
"Why wasn't I told that? You don't care about my business, or these children, just money. Why do you need the credits up front? Thirty five credits is a rip off anyway."
"That's the charge for the labor."
"What labor? Putting this stuff into your truck and dumping it at the local tip? Fine, you don't want to do it, tell me where the local tip is and I'll take them myself."
"... Uhh, it's two miles down the road ... I'll take them, no charge."
The man didn't want to argue with someone who had just effortlessly lifted thirty mattresses. Lore dropped them.
"Thank you," he said pleasantly and satisfied. "If you cared less about money and more about people you'd be much better off." Lore felt glad to say something like that and mean it.
"Sorry," one of the men said. "I guess it comes from my Father. He's part Ferengi."
"You're not from Magratica either?"
"My family is. My grandmother fell in love with a Ferengi trader who visited here. He treated her well, unlike how most Ferengi men treat their women. He taught my family the Rules of Acquisition. They've brought a lot of prosperity to us, but thank you for opening my eyes to other things out there. It's good that you're helping these kids."
Lore smiled at the man, glad he had made people think today and he felt proud and pleased with himself. He helped the man load the rubbish furniture onto the large truck and watched him drive away. Lore returned to the children to unpack the new things he'd bought and realized he was as excited as they were. Lore unloaded the things he'd bought from Ananya's shop onto the floor in the classroom. He took his twine bag into his bedroom and left it in there. Then the children began helping him put th new sheets on the beds, and the new pillowslips on the new comfortable pillows. And then they put the blankets on their beds. The place looked so much better and warmer. Lore plugged in two of the heaters. One at the top of the room and one at the bottom. Then, he began installing the new light globes, which he had been lissing to do ever since he got them! He threw all the old dim ones into the recycler.
He first started with the dining room, then his room, then the children's room, then the bathrooms, then the corridors. He went back into the childrens' room, plugged in all the lamps, and put a globe in each of them. Then he experimented by turning the lights on. The place looked a million times better. The rooms were all brighter and much less depressing. Lore peered into the bathrooms and the light brought out exactly how dirty they were. Mould was in the edges of the white tiles and the baths were dirty. Lore got some cleansing cream, ran some water in the baths and began to clean the walls and baths. At his speed, it didn't take him long. He scrubbed the floor too and was quite pleased with his work. He noticed a lot of the bath toys were dirty, some mouldy. He managed to clean a few of them up, but some were too far gone and he recycled them and stocked up the bath rooms with the new bubble bath, fun shaped soap and new bath toys he'd bought. He found the controls and regulated the temperature of the water so it was nice and warm. There were few things worse than a tepid bath. Lore told the children to wipe the toys after they'd played with them so they stayed clean.
Lore went to the box of toys he'd bought, and gathered the children around. They were absolutely ecstatic when Lore began handing them toys. They each claimed their stuffed toy and took them to their bedrooms. Lore put the toys in the toy box and found he needed a bigger box, which he retrieved from Seth's storage cupboard. The old one was brittle and breaking, so he recycled it.
"These toys in here are for all of you to play with, so you have to share them, okay?" Lore said, and the children agreed, happy to have someone who cared about them.
It took Lore a while to coax them to have their dinner, they were so hyperactive.
The children were very excited to have warm baths and with bubbles too, and new toys! It was like heaven! They liked the clean, bright bathrooms and stayed in the baths longer than usual. The children didn't go to bed for a while. They were too excited. They loved their new sturdy bedside cabinets, their new cupboards, which they hung and placed their clothes inside. They loved their new comfortable mattresses, bed clothing, pillows and new lights. Lore felt glad about what he'd done for them.
He thought about Roshana. She had looked so excited, but so sad and lonely. He could see that she desperately wanted to join in, but she didn't know how and she looked so scared. He desperately wanted to help her but didn't know how. He couldn't approach her or talk to her, she'd be scared, not knowing that he didn't want to hurt her, and Lore thought it would be very unlikely for her to come to him. He sighed to himself and retreated into his bedroom. He was glad to be rid of that ghastly cupboard, which took up almost half the room. The one he'd bought was smaller and much nicer and there was more room in the room now that the pile of conservative clothes was gone too. Lore arranged his trinkets from Ananya's shop in his room. He put the sheet and blanket on his bed and lay down. Ohh, .... it was so much more comfortable, and he turned on his bedside lamp. More light! It was unbelievable how much you miss an ordinary thing when it's gone. Lore picked up the dirty, scrawny dog he'd put into his bedroom, the one he'd rescued from the toy box. He found the sewing kit he'd bought and began to sew the dog up. He didn't use his android speed, he wanted to do it slowly. It didn't take him too long to get the dog sewn together. "I know what it's like to be in pieces, little, fella," he said, affectionately rubbing the dog's dirty head.
Lore walked out of his room, and saw the children had left their day clothes by the cleaning machine. He put the clothes and the dog into it, closed the lid and started the cycle.
Half an hour later, when the cycle was finished, he took the dry clothes out, put them into the children's bedroom and fished his dog out of them.
"Hey, you look great! There's a cute yellow pup under all that muck." Lore smiled, took the light dog into his room, and put him on the bed. "I'll call you Soong, after my father."
The dog did not look so sad anymore. Lore smiled, put it by the pillow and looked at his big teddy bear on the chair. "I'll call you Noonian."
Lore pulled his new blankets over him and began to read one of the books he'd bought, at human speed, because he'd finish all the books in less than five minutes if he read through them at his fastest speed.
Lore went to Seth the next morning before the children awoke and asked her if it would be all right to take them out into the school playground.
"It should be fine, as long as you keep them together and Don't let them leave the school grounds. I think the fresh air will be good for them."
"Seth, do you have a moment? I'd like to show you something."
Seth nodded and Lore smiled. "I've made a ew improvements to the classroom."
Seth looked intrigued and Lore led her to the classroom. Lore heard Roshana behind the lockers, asleep, and didn't speak too loudly, so not to wake her.
"I think the children like me," he said to her.
"That's great! So what are your improvements?" Seth was eager to see.
And Lore was eager to show her, and began with the clean, orderly shelves.
"I've bought new good story books and text books."
Seth smiled, most impressed.
"I've also replaced most of their workbooks and used the recycler to make new paper. I also recycled all those crappy books and all that old teacher's stuff. I was told we're supposed to keep all that stuff, but I can't see the point. They didn't care about these children and if they really wanted the records they would have taken them with them. I can't see why our shelves should be cluttered with their junk. And those books are more useful as writing, or art paper."
Seth patted Lore. "True. A bit drastic, but I like it."
Lore smiled again. "I've never been one for patience, or playing by the rules." He also showed Seth the newly stocked, organised craft cupboard, with some special craft supplies things he'd bought from the toy shop, like colored glitter glue.
"It's very good for them," Seth said, "to be arty and crafty. A lot of them are good at that sort of thing, and they create such beautiful things. I'm glad you restocked the cupboard, the other teachers never bothered."
Lore nodded. "I've seen some of the drawings and paintings. I also bought some new toys for them. Most of theirs were broken."
"Tell me about it. The funds the school receives are very tight. Where did you-"
Before she could complete ger sentence, Lore led her into the corridor and switched on the lights.
"Ohh, so much brighter and cheerful ..."
Lore showed her his bedroom, a far cry from the dreary hole it was. "I did a spot of tidying up, ditched the old cupboard, and clothes and put some carpet down."
Seth smiled. Lore heard the children waking and went inside their bedroom. "Okay, now," he said, "time for your breakfasts."
He lead the children into the dining room and set everything up for them, then went back to Seth.
"I also put some carpet down here. The floor was so cold. I don't mean to brag but I also bought new cupboards, mattresses and bed clothes for them," and he showed her.
"You're absolutely amazing," Seth said, feeling one of the blankets. "They're so pretty and soft." She hugged Lore. "You really care about them, don't you?"
Lore nodded again. "I wasn't .... treated well when I was young and I've done some things I'm not proud of. I don't want these children to feel rejected ot suffer what I went through. They deserve the same as anyone else."
Seth nodded. "That they do."
Lore showed Seth the clean bathrooms. She marvelled at the pristine white tiles, the clean baths and floors.
"The mould was quite bad," Lore said. "Not good at all for the children's health .... and I'm sounding like a mother."
Seth smiled. "Lore ... I hope you don't think bad of me," she said, "but I simply don't have time for everything, or money and-"
"I know," Lore said with a gentle smile. "It's all right. One can only do their best ... I've bought some new bath toys, bubble bath and soaps. I've also regulated the temperature of the water and made it much warmer. If there's a problem with the electricity cost, you can take it out of my wages."
Seth smiled. "Thanks for the offer, but I'm sure the school can manage. It's great what you've done here. Bubble bath, I bet they love that. I'm an adult and I love it!"
"There's only one other thing," Seth said, "two weeks pay definitely wasn't enough for all this and I don't understand-"
"I didn't steal any of it," Lore said truthfully. "I was offered discounts on a lot of it."
"I trust you, Seth," Lore said, "I think. Let's just say I have a way with computers."
Seth gave a mischievous, knowing smile. "It's money well spent. I won't tell anyone if you won't."
Lore smiled. "It's a done deal."
That day, Lore took the children into the playground. Before he left, he took a deep breath.
"Roshana ... would you like to come?" It was the first time he'd spoken to her. She looked up at him, then down at her bear and let out a small growl. Lore could see that she wanted to come, but didn't want to be near anyone.
"All right," Lore said, "but feel free to join us."
The children were happy and excited to be going outside. They had never been to the playground before. None of the other teachers would allow them to. They had fun on the obstacles, and definitely on the swings, and Lore had fun playing with them and they enjoyed playing with their toys in the sand.
Later, Lore saw Roshana, outside, looking lost, and lonely. He wanted to go to her, but knew she'd run away. He saw her claim a swing and swing on it for a long while, clutching her
bear. Lore smiled. It was nice to see her out of that corner.
She was still swinging when Lore was taking the other children inside. Lore decided to leave her. If she found her way there, she'd find her way back. Lore had started to get a little worried, but when she entered the room and scampered to her corner, he relaxed.
That day, the class received a new boy. Seth brought him in.
"This is Atreyu Noah. He was abandoned by his parents, in a shopping trolley." Lore could see Seth was almost in tears. How could anyone just abandon him like that? Lore's parents had abandoned him and it still hurt. They had been abandoned for different reasons, but that didn't take away the pain. The little boy was almost in tears too. How was he supposed to understand why his parents didn't want him? And they had no damned excuse either. Lore cursed them wherever they were. Seth left the room. Lore saw how frightened the copper-skinned child looked. "It's all right" he said, "we're all friends here, and you're most welcome. All these children are like you."
Atreyu Noah was crying now. Lore approached him, and the child backed away. He looked frightened and alienated. Lore was scared that the new child would withdraw totally like Roshana.
"It's okay," he said, kneeling down. "I'm not going to hurt you. You have a home here, and lots of other children and toys to play with."
Without warning, Atreyu Noah threw his arms around Lore and burst into tears. Lore picked the child up and comforted him in his arms. He gently stroked him head until the sobbing died down. He pulled out a new book he'd bought and started to read to the children. Atreyu Noah sat on his lap, and Lore showed him the pictures. The little boy sucked his thumb, seeming to have calmed down. After the story, Lore let the children draw pictures and gave Atreyu Noah some drawing utensils and paper, and before long the little boy was drawing away, and talking to the other children. Lore set up a bed for him for later on. Luckily he'd bought spares of everything! It didn't take Atreyu long to come accustomed to the ways here and the class was very friendly and accepting towards him. They were all like family here and Lore was grateful to be a part of that family.
In his spare time, besides helping the children and himself, Lore made it his business to learn more about Magratica and its culture, and laws. He found he no longer resented the policemen because they wore Starfleet-like uniforms, in fact he found them quite helpful. Magratica's laws he found were standard as any other planet - killing, damaging drugs, assaulting others was forbidden. The library had loaned Lore a computer disk-book containing all volumes of Magratica's values and laws and they were most surprised when Lore returned it the next day, fully read. Lore also found he no longer resented biological life forms. Everyone here was biological. He'd run into some who weren't exactly nice, but, unfortunately most planets had those sorts. Lore decided not to let it bother him.
He had taken the children shopping, and bought many sets of clothes for them, each different. He'd also bought himself some sets of clothes. Although he didn't need to change, he'd found some he really liked and it was such a relief to get out of his torn borg suit. Whoever designed that was an idiot. He'd worn it to fit in, even if he had looked stupid. He'd have someone's eye out with those shoulder pads, he was sure. He was glad to find clothes which suited him and looked really nice, and were very comfortable. He'd also spoilt the children, by buying them chocolates, sweets, books, toys and other little trinkets. He knew spoiling children was supposed to be bad, but when had these children ever been spoiled?
He'd even coaxed Roshana to come with them, but she had kept her distance. He saw her eying some things she liked, but she was too frightened and shy to ask for anything, so Lore got them for her anyway. He didn't want her to feel left out.
Lore spent the next few days sampling various fresh and tasty food from different organisations in the hope of finding one that could supply the school with the food it needed - and be nutritious, delicious, a vast variety and affordable. Lore found one he liked very much called "Food Nums." The chef he spoke to was quite a character. They were thrilled to have a customer as large as a school and were eager to offer special discounts on meals. Lore organised with Seth, who was over the moon about it. In the long run, Food Nums would cost about the same and be much better for the children - Food that was good and actually had a taste. The shredded cheese tasted like shredded cheese, not shredded paper - the sauces were exquisite, the milk natural and pure, the fruit and vegetables fresh and the deserts, divine, - rich chocolate cake which tasted like chocolate cake and much more. Lore loved the chocolate mousse. His friend Elanore had introduced it to him on Omicron Theta before she died. She had died quite a few years before he as disassembled. Lore didn't like to think of that, or Elanore's death. He had tried to save her, but her injuries were too great. When he thought of Elanore, he tried to think of the happy memories, like how friendly she was - the only colonist who had treated him nicely. She had taught him to cook, without using a replicator and introduced him to her hundreds of varieties of yummy chocolate mousse from all over the galaxy. Its sweet, smooth and creamy texture had always brought a smile to his face and although he'd programmed all of Elanore's recipes into the replicator, on the colony, it was never quite as good as the real thing. Lore had made different recipes and eaten many varieties of chocolate mousse quite often to escape the harshness of his treatment on the colony, but that was in the past now and Lore was determined to leave it behind him and make a brighter future.
The children were to receive different meals every day. The food company "Easy Craig" were angry and demanded why the school had cancelled their orders. Their rather rude manager practically barged into the school.
"Have you actually eaten any of the food you make?" Lore asked.
"Why should I do that?" he demanded. "I sell it not eat it."
"Well perhaps you should try eating it. I doubt you'd wonder why we don't want it anymore after you try it. It's pathetic, revolting, not very nutritious and totally tasteless. A Pakled chef could do better. Obviously you don't care about these children. Just shove any old thing into their mouths, as long as it's dirt cheap for you to make. Would you do that to your children? Or yourself? No - you'd buy food you liked and enjoyed, so don't expect us to take any more of your crap."
The manager, shocked, obviously not used to being on the receiving end, caught his breath.
"My apologies," he said, promptly leaving the building, after seeing Lore's cold stare.
"You certainly have a way with people," Seth said, giving him a smile.
"Sorry," Lore said, apologetically. "Some people really get my goat and you have to be abrupt with them."
"Don't apologize," Seth said. "He's had that coming for a long time. Hell knows, I've been wanting to say it to him, but you beat me to it!"
Lore smiled. "Perhaps he'll start making real food now."
And Seth smiled too.
Lore was teaching the children times tables one morning and was pleased at their progress. He heard the door abruptly open and looked up. In the doorway he saw a tall thin man, sporting a long grey beard and moustache.
"Can I help you?" Lore asked.
"I'm Mr Clancy," the man said. "I taught here some time ago. I've come for my papers."
There was something about this man that Lore did not like. "Which papers are you referring to?"
"All the previous teachers' papers are here. They're filed in those shelves - or did you not do your homework?"
Lore refused to let this person irk him. "I'm, sorry," he said in a condescending tone. "All those papers you mentioned have been discarded. Why should we waste valuable shelf space keeping papers for teachers who don't give a damn about these children?"
"What?! They're supposed to be kept!"
"Why did you leave this class, Mr. Clancy?" Lore asked.
Lore saw Selma stick her tongue right out at Mr. Clancy behind his back and he smiled.
"These children are awful," Clancy said. "Their work is terrible - they don't understand anything. What's the point of teaching disabled children in the first place? They are incapable of learning anything. And that girl," he said pointing at Roshana, "it's a wonder she's alive."
Lore heard Roshana grunt softly from her corner. "She'll come when she's ready," he said, trying to remain calm. "She's had it tough and she needs her time alone to adjust."
Clancy had calmed somewhat and continued. "I took this job because it was the only one available at the time, heaven forbid and I'm glad to be rid of it and so was Gloria, the teacher before me and I don't blame her for leaving either."
Lore took a deep breath. This man was really starting to irk him. "Maybe they're terrible because you don't care about them. I saw their workbooks - the things they got wrong weren't even marked properly - maybe you don't know your work."
"How dare you insult me!"
"It's not an insult," Lore said, calmly. "You don't care about these children, so how can you expect them to respect you or any other teachers - and behave if you don't care about them? I happen to care for these children and have been teaching them and they are beginning to understand what no other teacher bothered to teach them properly. They're people like you and me and they shouldn't be treated with any less respect."
Mr. Clancy took in a breath, listening to what Lore said. "Perhaps you're right, and you seem to be right for this job. At least someone is. I suppose you threw out my clothes in the bedroom too?"
"You have absolutely no dress sense, darling," Lore said in a mocking motherly tone. "From your skin color I can tell you're a Winter person, so why don't you get clothes that suit you? I'm afraid grey does nothing for you, my dear."
Clancy didn't know wether to laugh or explode. "Thank you," he said. "I'll be leaving now."
Lore could tell there had been a slight change in the man. He didn't seem as abrupt or as single minded. Lore smiled inwardly. At least he'd made another person think. The people on Magratica weren't above caring - they just needed a hard kick in the butt to do it, just like he had done, Lore mused.
* * *
A few days later Seth had fallen very ill and she wasn't expected to survive. Lore felt extremely upset and very worried. He'd never met anyone who had appreciated him or cared for him in this way before. Seth was like a mother to him, also a teacher, a friend - a lot of things. All the children in the school and gone to see her in hospital. Her room was covered with cards, flowers, fruit and chocolates. She was very well loved. Lore had brought all the children to see her, even Roshana came along, but remained distant from everyone, clutching her teddy. Lore was glad she had come. He had bought Seth a bunch of roses and more chocolates.
Seth smiled warmly at him. "I shall never have to buy chocolate again!"
Lore could tell she was weak, but she was a strong woman. He saw Roshana approach Seth's bed and give her a flower. Lore recognised it as the one she was making in craft.
"Thank you," Seth said, touched, and she held Roshana's hand. It was the first time Lore had seen Roshana allow anyone to touch her. He could tell she cared for and loved Seth very much. As did he.
An older student, Hamble watched over Seth and took over with her duties. She had commented to Lore how impressed she was with what he had done for the Children. She'd often helped them in the periods when they had no one to look after them and was quite fold of them, and Seth and needless to say, was extremely worried about her.
Lore felt grateful for Hamble's help, though angry at being so helpless. But suddenly, he had an idea. His shuttle! He practically bolted there at full speed and was there in just a few minutes. He remained in radio contact with the hospital and learned that Seth had just suffered a heart attack and it did not look good for her. He only hoped he was in time and that he could save her. He found his shuttle virtually untouched, apart from some plants which had partially grown over it. He tore the vines away from the hatch and almost tore the hatch off too. He ransacked the interior until he found what he was looking for. A medical tricorder and a med-kit. Having being with the Borg, he had discovered that they occasionally needed medical assistance for their organic parts, but was glad that was all behind him now. Lore slammed the hatch shut and bolted back to the hospital. He had to save Seth and prayed to whatever deity was up there to help him. He arrived back at the hospital in no time and despite the doctors' protests, Lore began to help Seth. The doctors, nurses and children watched an amazement as Lore used the tricorder and his medical supplies, to cure a disease which had been deemed incurable.
Seth awoke, and needed time to recover. Lore promised her he would look after things until she was fit enough to return to work and he planned to do just that. He didn't want her getting sick again. She smiled at him warmly and trusted him and Lore was grateful for that trust. A lot of the older students promised to help him and they were grateful to Lore, and the other teachers in the school were also. They had even apologized to Lore, because some of them had felt he was wasting his time with his children, but knew that Seth cared a lot about them. Lore smiled and forgave them. There was nothing like impressing others with something really worthwhile and it made Lore feel wonderful.
Lore took his class home that after visiting Seth. They had been there for a few hours. It was a particularly cold and dark night. It didn't bother Lore, but the children were all shivering and complaining, and Lore hustled them back to the school. It was quite a long walk from the hospital for the children, and Lore hoped they didn't catch cold. They made it back to the school and hustled inside to their classroom, which was quite cold. Lore rushed inside, turned on the lights, illuminating the pitch black classroom, and turned on the air heaters, warming the place up. It was amazing how quickly it got cold on Magratica. It was a reasonable temperature and light when they left for the hospital.
Lore got the dinners, which were gobbled up in no time. The children appreciate the new tasty food very much. They hadn't gotten very dirty that day, and Lore saw they were all very tired. He wiped the food from their faces and ushered them off to bed. The room was quite warm since he had turned the heaters on when they had returned from the hospital. The children quickly put on their new winter pyjamas, pulled up their new blankets, snuggled in their beds cuddling their plush toys. The silent heaters would turn off automatically when the room reached a comfortable temperature, then start up again when it got colder, so the children would keep warm. Lore smiled at them. "Good night, sweet dreams," he said, then turned off the lights.
Lore began to walk into his bedroom, feeling glad the children were all safe and warm. He suddenly thought about Roshana. He had heard her go to her corner. The poor girl'll be freezing! Lore grabbed the two blankets and pillow he'd saved for her, and her dinner and dashed into the doorway to the classroom. He quietly opened the door, and turned on one of the lights, and turned it down dim. Lore saw Roshana in her corner, tossing and turning, trying to cope with the biting cold. He heard her crying softly in her sleep. Lore felt so sorry for her and began walking slowly toward her. He turned on the silent heater in the classroom and continued toward her. He'd advanced about halfway when Roshana awoke and saw him. Lore could see she was absolutely terrified. She began to back into the lockers as far as she could go. Lore could see her shivering and trying to protect herself, and she was crying soundlessly. Lore stopped, knelt down and spoke to her gently. "I'm not going to hurt you, Roshana," but her terrified expression did not change.
Maybe she knows, Lore thought for a moment, all those bad things I did ... maybe she can sense them ... but then can't she sense that I'm trying to start again? ... Lore looked at Roshana again and saw her fear was more primal - no doubt because of her brutal father. If I ever see him, Lore thought, I'll show him what I damned well think! I've done some things I'm not proud of, but brutalizing, assaulting and raping children aren't amongst them, or raping anyone for that matter. Lore saw the sheer terror in Roshana's eyes and he wanted to cry himself. He so much wanted her to trust him. He had no intentions of harming her in any way. He looked again into her large, terrified eyes.
Lore spoke slowly and gently. "I don't know what that man, did to you, but I promise I will not hurt you or force you to do anything you don't want to do."
Sadly, he realised Roshana was still petrified, as though she hadn't heard a word he's said. "Roshana, can you hear me?"
She emphatically nodded her head.
The poor baby's so scared... Lore thought. He just wanted to take her into his arms and embrace her. He held out his hand to her. Her hand darted out and scratched it, like a cat. Her hands were very tense. Of course it didn't hurt Lore. He edged his hand closer and Roshana whimpered like a frightened puppy.
"Shh..." Lore urged, withdrawing his hand, not wanting to wake the other children, sensing she was about to scream
he held a hand up. He want didn't her to be frightened. "It's all right," he said softly. "I'll leave these here for you. It's cold tonight and you must be hungry." Lore pulled the blankets up and left the food and utensils by Roshana. He slowly backed off and stood up, trying his best not to frighten her any more. "Just call me if you need me," he said, knowing she wouldn't. Upset, Lore walked away, turned off the classroom light and retreated to his bedroom, wishing there was some way he could help Roshana. He tried to cheer himself up by thinking about all the good things he had done here and it made him happy, but he still wanted to help Roshana.
Perhaps I'm being too impatient, he thought. Maybe she'll open up to me and the others when she's ready. And the last thing Lore wanted to do was rush her or force her, because good intentions aside, it would make things worse, but Lore couldn't help thinking that Roshana may never let others in. He hoped that wouldn't be so and he tried not to think about it.
The next morning the children were up and ready for school. Mercifully the cold had disappeared with the night. Lore had turned the heaters off, really glad he'd bought them! That morning Lore's first thought were of Roshana. When he started the class he saw empty food cartons and a ruffled blanket which had obviously been slept in and empty bowls. Lore began his lesson with one of the new books he'd bought - a good book. He liked teaching and found it most enjoyable and it taught him too - not in the field of academics (he could work through the entire thick math book in his head in 8.25 seconds) but it taught him to be more accepting of others. He didn't look down on them or have contempt for them. He didn't think the children were stupid or get mad when they'd forgotten what 5 * 9 was. Instead he wanted to show them how to work it out, teach them his skills so that would learn how to do things for themselves. He became less judgemental and he discovered the true meaning of the word patience!
* * *
Seth made a fast recovery and was on her feet back at the school within a fortnight. She'd never felt this good since her twenties! Her slump had gone and Lore threw his arms around her and gave her a welcome back kiss. Seth hugged him too and was glad to be back home. She too lived here. It was the only home she knew and she couldn't bear to be away any longer.
"What would I have done without you?" she said, shaking her head and smiling at Lore.
"What would I have done without you?"
Seth smiled, not thinking that she'd done much, but she had. She'd helped Lore in more ways that he could have ever imagined any biological person - or any person at all, could have done and he would be forever grateful for that.
Lore took her shopping and bought her clothes which suited her figure, were her style and colors, so they looked really good. He'd also spoiled her. Seth didn't look like someone who had ever been spoiled and he wanted to treat her to something special. They went to a live theatre play and lunch out together. He also took her to various shops and showed her how to be impulsive and let the child in her out and she was most grateful.
"It feels as if I've been trapped all this time. Thank you, Lore."
Lore voiced his concerns to Seth about Roshana.
"Poor Roshana," Seth had said. "What are we going to do about her ... I wish there was some way to help, but how?..."
clearly it was a question to which only time had the answer.
Seth had been so busy lately. No one could run a place like she could! There was a lot of organizing to do. Lore, the elder students and teachers had been helping her too and Seth thanked everyone for their support.
After one very hard day after putting the children to sleep, Lore lay in the bed in his room. The day had been particularly hard, teaching the children basic mathematics. The math wasn't hard for Lore - teaching the children to understand it - that was the hard part. Lore tired his best to be patient. At least they could count. Lore had used examples and objects and finally managed to teach them to add and subtract and he never lost his patience once, which made him proud. He really wanted to teach these children. They needed to know basic mathematics to get by anywhere, and they definitely needed to know the basics if they were to learn anything more advanced. Lore would teach them, but one thing at a time, otherwise they'd get confused and never get anywhere. Lore wasn't going to spend any time on things the children didn't need to know, unless they wanted to learn them. These children were more on the creative side than academic and Lore felt that should be developed, but first the children needed to learn the basics in all the subjects.
Lore worried about Roshana. How could he teach her anything if she wouldn't let anyone go near her? She wouldn't join the class and she was terrified of anyone approaching her. Lore saw Selma go to her and give her one of her paintings. Roshana took her painting and didn't seem frightened, but wanted Selma to go away, not because she didn't like her, because she wanted to be alone. Lore didn't see dislike in Roshana's eyes, but she looked very uncomfortable. She was also afraid she'd be forced by the others. Selma looked sad, but seemed to understand. She smiled at Roshana than joined the class. Lore saw Roshana look at Selma, longing, perhaps longing to join the class, but not knowing how.
That night, Lore lay in his bed thinking about the task ahead of him. It would take quite a while, but he wanted to do it, vowed he would do it, or at least his very best. He knew he was wanted here, more than any other place in the universe. Lore lay his head on his pillow and tried to go to sleep. It had been a very long day, and although he didn't need sleep, he felt he could do with some and smiled to himself as he pulled the woven blanket he'd bought at Ananya's shop over him, closed his eyes and slept. He didn't access his dream program. It had a habit of accessing itself and he found that interesting. He seldom slept and when he did, it felt better to let the dreams come naturally.
Lore wasn't in a very deep sleep and was semi aware of his state. He'd taking to sleeping while the children were asleep if he had nothing in particular he needed or wanted to do.
It was some time during the middle of the night when Lore thought he heard his door open. He wasn't worried about it, and told himself not to get up, or even open his eyes. A few moments later, he felt someone else crawling into the bed. He was sure of it and became more awake. The figure crept upwards and seemed to nestle in his chest, trying to snuggle up to him. Lore touched the figure, who was quite small and he heard faint sobbing. Lore surmised the person was one of the children, who perhaps had a nightmare and was seeking comfort. He smiled to himself, despite his half-asleep state, that someone would trust him and come to him. It was a wonderful feeling. He gently put his arm around the small child, which seemed to comfort her and her sobbing subsided and she began sucking her thumb. Lore felt her body rise and fall, with her regular breathing. He felt warm and glad comforting her. It didn't take long for either of them to fall into a deep sleep.
When Lore awoke in the morning, he had no idea what time it was, but he didn't bother to check his internal chronometer. He felt someone against him and remembered the child who had come to him last night and he smiled. Lore gently removed the covers and stared at the child. There lay Roshana, sleeping peacefully. Lore almost cried, and thanked whatever deity watching over him. He stroked her long wavy brown hair, gently so not to wake her. Soon after, Roshana began to wake.
"Bad dream?" Lore asked softly.
Roshana gasped and sat up rod straight in an instant.
"It's all right," Lore said gently, not wanting her to run away. "Did you have a bad dream?"
Roshana nodded, frightened, but Lore sensed her fear was not of him, but the dream.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Roshana slowly shook her head.
"You'll be all right," Lore said, but Roshana looked unsure, as if her nightmare would come true. Whatever it was had terrified her, but she had said that she did not want to talk about it and Lore did not want to pursue the matter. He swore to protect her if anything bad did threaten to happen. He decided to change the subject.
"Would you like a bath, Roshana? I can run one for you."
Roshana gave a small smile and nodded.
Lore smiled. "All right."
He headed for the bathroom and began to pour a soothing warm bath for he, poured out a generous helping of turquoise bubble bath, agitated the water furiously so more bubbles came - and an android could make lots more bubbles! Lore he also put a rubber duckie and some other toys in the water, left breakfast out for her, then walked into the classroom to start the day. Roshana would join them when she was ready. The other children had eaten their breakfast, were dressed and ready.
Lore could tell they really liked him and it made him happy. The new boy Atreyu Noah had settled in nicely and was nowhere near as shy and frightened as when he first started. He was good friends with Ryan now. They were always together and Lore felt it was beautiful to have such a valuable friendship. He'd heard some of the other teachers saying he should separate them, because they were becoming too attached, but Lore decided not to. Both children needed to be together and with each other at this point in their lives and separating them now would only cause a lot of pain, now and in the future. Lore felt it was not his place to force them apart and he let them stay together, although he did ask them to play with the other children also, because he didn't want them to shut themselves out completely and they had listened to him. They did play with the other children, but were always the best of friends. Lore had found himself wishing he had experienced friendship of that magnitude.
Seth was on her way to Lore's class. She had been so busy of late, she hadn't even had a chance to drop in and thank Lore and the children for their support. She turned the handle and could hear Lore and the children. She opened the door fully and looked inside. Her eyes nearly fell out of their sockets at what she saw: Roshana sitting on Lore's lap.
Lore looked up at Seth and closed the book he was reading to the children. He smiled warmly at Seth and motioned her to come into the classroom. Seth nodded, still bewildered.
"Lore's reading us a story about bed time," Roshana said, "and it's making us all sleepy." And Roshana smiled.
So did Lore and Seth - it was the middle of the day! That was the first time Lore had heard Roshana speak. Her voice was sweet, cute and had an aura of childlike wonder to it. He ruffled her long, dark wavy hair and she smiled again, then ruffled his.
"You've got a mischievous streak in there, Roshana," he said, with a smile. "I like it..."
And she giggled. Lore smiled again. It was a warm wonderful feeling.
There were tears in Seth's eyes. She came to Lore and gave him a hug.
"I don't know what to say, or what you've done, but you're absolutely incredible."
What seemed like eons ago, a statement like that would have fed Lore's colossal ego, but now, he just felt grateful that he'd earned it and he felt wonderful for what he had accomplished. He didn't need that false sense of superiority anymore.
There was so much more to Roshana than that terrified, isolated girl who wouldn't budge from her corner or let anyone near her. She was beginning to join in activities with the other children and were eager to accept her. Selma was happy to be able to play with her.
Roshana was quite behind the other children in most subjects and Lore spent extra time with her to help her catch up. The other children weren't jealous at all, as Lore first feared they might be, in fact Lore found them quite helpful. Lore had set up a new bed for her in the bedroom, with a new mattress, side cupboard and lamp. Roshana the last to go to sleep and was amazed at how comfortable the bed was, compared to the hard floor, which she'd slept on for so long. Lore put her to bed one night and smiled when she snuggled up with her bear and doggie. She had placed her purple car on the bedside cupboard. It was a cold night outside, so Lore had put the heater on, and it was quite warm in the bedroom. He was glad he wasn't affected by the cold. On occasion, he had switched off his temperature control and wonder how humans could stand being too cold or hot. Lore switched off Roshana's bedside light, kissed her good night, tucked her in an then walked into his bedroom, feeling wonderful that all was well.
Selma learnt fairly quickly and had moved up a level and into another class. Lore missed her, but was proud of her achievement. It was unheard of for an intellectually disabled child to achieve or accomplish anything. Lore was surprised at the rate she was growing. In the year he had been here, she was an adolescent and now in her final year of school. Natives on Magratica had fast growth rate, but some grew faster then others. Some other children had progressed to higher classes too, and more new children had joined his class. Lore hoped they all learned enough to survive and like Selma, went onward. He was confident in himself, and even though it was fun a lot of the time, it was long hard work, even for an android.
Lore often took the children on outings, such as shopping, and to places like the zoo, aquarium, fun parks, to the pool and the seaside, on cruise, being very careful to supervise them, and of course to the ice cream parlour and chocolate & lolly factory! When they went to the museum, the little boy, Zoisite had been absolutely swept away and mesmerized by the gemstone and geology section. Lore had to come back for him afterwards and he found he was taking him to the museum on numerous occasions and bought him some books on the subject and bought him some gemstones at and minerals. He was happy to see that the little blond had developed an interest at last and hoped he wouldn't tire of it. Lore was delighted to see Roshana having fun. She had apologized to Lore for how she had remained so cut off from everyone.
"Roshana," Lore had said, "you needed your time. You needed that time alone to yourself, to heal, to learn to trust others again and you were very frightened. God only knows I needed my time too."
Roshana hadn't fully understood the latter half of Lore's statement, but she had thanked him and joined the others, toy shopping. When he was talking to Roshana, Lore had realized how isolated he'd been - how he had never let anyone get close to him - not even his own brother. Lore had not sat in a corner, distant from everyone, but everyone behaved in their own way. Ironic, Lore thought. Here I am, teaching Roshana how to overcome and deal with isolation and I haven't even done it myself. Lore hoped he could one day settle things with Data - when was another story, and Lore didn't want to dwell on things that upset him. He took peace in the feeling that he and Data would meet up again, somewhere, sometime, somehow.
Lore began teaching the children one morning and saw Roshana go to her corner. For a moment, he was afraid that she was going to resume her isolated position. She picked up her scruffy stuffed bear and doggie and toy car. She then came to Lore and held up the dog and bear.
Lore smiled and nodded. He stood up, took them to the cleaning machine and set it to delicate so not to damage or misproportion the toys. Lore placed the toys in the machine and began to close the lid. He heard an ear-piercing - even for him - scream come from the classroom and again and again. Lore let the lid slam down and rushed into the room and saw a man had entered the room and had grabbed Roshana. At first Lore thought he might be a previous teacher, but saw how hostile the man was toward Roshana.
"So this is where you've been all this time, Brat! You're coming with me you little bitch!"
Roshana screamed uncontrollably and tried to push him away. The man felt a hand clamp down on his shoulder.
"Just who in Hades do you think you are?" Lore barked. He wanted to swear, but not in front of the children.
"I'm her father!" the man shot back. "Who the hell are you?"
"I'm her teacher and I don't appreciate people barging in and terrorising my students."
"I'll have you know," the man spat, "it's against the law to keep children from their parents. I could have you arrested!"
"Do you care about Roshana?"
"What's that got to do with it?"
"ANSWER THE QUESTION!"
The man reeled back in shock, then stabilized himself. "She ran away. She had no right to do that!"
"She ran away because you abused her!" Lore spat.
"Parents have rights to their children - and she's intellectually disabled - which means I have every right!"
"We'll see about that," Lore said, disgusted. "Get out of my classroom."
"How dare you speak to me that way?! I am the father of this child! I have every right to -"
"As far as I'm concerned," Lore said, controlling himself not to break the man's neck, "you have no rights here. This is my classroom. I am responsible for these children and no one is going to hurt them."
the other man seethed. "I don't give a damn who you are. I want what's MINE!" He grabbed Roshana, who shrieked and desperately tried to struggle away, but her strength was no match for this burly, ugly man. He made for the door. Lore lunged after him and freed Roshana. The man tried to punch Lore. Lore blocked the assault, surprising the other man with his incredible speed, breaking his wrist in the process. The man yelled in pain.
"I'm going to take her. She belongs to me! You'll pay for that you f-"
"Now, now," Lore said in a mocking tone. "There are children present."
Lore was angry at how this man was regarding Roshana. Even his own father - or mother hadn't treated him this badly - and he thought he had it bad.
The man's face grew red with anger. "I want what's mine and I'll take it!"
He lunged again for Roshana. Lore'd had enough. He grabbed the offending person, held him above his head and flung him across the room, and out of the window. The other children stared at Lore in awe. Roshana, still shaken by the experience began to cry. Lore immediately knelt down to her and held her gently in his arms.
"He won't hurt you ever again," he said comfortingly. "I promise."
At that moment Seth burst into the classroom, sporting a black eye and in a panic.
"Lore ... Roshana's father ... found her and he's ...."
Lore turned to the other students. "Excuse us."
He stood, and took Roshana outside with Seth.
"I know," he said. "I've dealt with him."
"But he was such a strong man. Much bigger than you. I tried to stop him, but ..."
Lore's eyes showed his anger at how this man could assault an elderly woman.
"Lore's stronger," Roshana said. "He threw that horrible man across the classroom and out of the window."
Seth knelt down and hugger Roshana. "You don't have to accept that horrible man as your father ..." Seth paused. "I didn't think the windows in that classroom could open..."
Lore smiled. "They can't."
Seth's eyes widened and then she grinned too. "You certainly have a flair for the dramatic - most unorthodox, but that bugger deserved it."
And Lore nodded his approval. "And I'll pay for the window too."
The very next day when Lore was teaching the children - the police paid the school a visit. Lore had become used to their Starfleet-like uniforms - but this time he knew they had come for him.
"Is there somewhere we can speak in private," he said, not wanting to alarm the children.
The two police gestured. Lore followed them. Seth was waiting outside with a worried look on her face. Lore also saw Roshana's 'father' there, his arm and wrist bandaged up and he gave the man a smile. Deep inside he was a little worried, but he was confident he would help these people see the true criminal here.
Lore saw one of the older students. "Hamble he said, could you look after the class please, while we sort this out?"
"Certainly," she said.
Lore didn't see Hamble very much, but he found her very kind and helpful, particularly while Seth was sick. Hamble was a pretty girl, thin with wavy short hair and a pale face and small blue eyes, always eager to help. Lore turned back to the police.
"Excuse me ma'am," said the police woman. "You'll have to wait outside."
Seth looked at Lore, very worried.
"Don't worry," he told her. " Everything's gonna be fine."
And she tried to smile.
Lore entered the room with the two police officers.
Roshana's 'father' began barking abuse at Lore and what he did.
"Yes," Lore said. "I broke his wrist - when he tried to punch me and I threw him out of the closed window - which I am going to pay to be fixed."
"I'll be scarred for life," the man spat. "The glass cut me, you know."
Lore gave his an obviously fake sympathetic look. "Oh diddums, diddums."
"We're aware you're not from Magratica, Mr. Lore," cut in the police man.
"Please - just Lore."
"Are you aware that physically assaulting others is regarded as a criminal offence?"
"Yes," Lore replied. "I am. I've studied your laws -
The police woman gave a barely noticeable smile. "Then you are also aware that it's against the law to keep children away from their natural parents if it is against the parent's will."
"Yes," Lore replied. "I am."
"Then we have no choice but to place you under arrest," the police man said.
Roshana's 'father's' face became an ugly, twisted grin - one Lore wanted to rip right off. The police woman hand-cuffed Lore's wrists and motioned for him to stand.
"Just one thing," Lore said. "Do you know what that thing did to Roshana?"
"That is of no concern," the police woman said. "She is a disordered child and he's her father. According to our laws, he has every right to her."
"Even the right hurt her? Do you think that's right?"
The police woman was silent, then said. "It is not my place to question the law - just to uphold it."
"Even when some things it says are wrong?" and before anyone could reply, Lore went on. "I've read your laws - and nowhere does it state that disabled children do not have equal rights. Children are children disabled or not. Adults are adults disabled or not. Where I come from, disabled people have all the rights 'normal' people do."
Lore let that sink in for a while.
"Is rape against your laws? - or to sexually abuse another?"
"Of course it is!" the police woman snapped, her voice telling Lore that she had been abused at some time in her life. "I thought you said you read all the laws."
"I have - perhaps you haven't. So if you found a man who had raped and battered abused a little girl so badly that she had taken years to let others get close to her, what would you do?"
"Then, that person would be put in jail for life, and the key thrown away. The person would even be executed if necessary."
"Even if the man was the child's father?"
"Yes," the police man said. "He would still go to jail for life and the child cared for."
Lore pointed at Roshana's 'father.' "Well this 'man' did those things to that poor little girl. Damn his scars from the glass. He's scarred that little girl much more than you could ever imagine. It took her almost a year to trust me. That 'person'-" he pointed to the man, "is a pile of slimy pos'wa." A word Lore had learned on Magratica. "He doesn't care about that beautiful little child or what he's done to her life. Disabled people have feelings too and don't you dare tell me he had a right to do what he did to her, because he did not."
The police officers began talking to each other, obviously astounded by what Lore had just said to them. He was right. He shouldn't be the one under arrest - Roshana's 'father' should be and they announced their decision.
"That's outrageous!" the man shrieked, standing up.
Lore shoved him back down, pushing the man's injured arm in the process. Lore didn't care.
"You know it's not," he said. "You just used Roshana to fulfil you sick fantasies. Did you rape your wife too?"
"She left me a long time ago," the man growled.
"No bloody wonder! You know you deserve this, even though you'll try to worm your way out of it like the worm you are."
And that's what he tried to do, despite feeling angry at Lore's accusation - but the police didn't buy the man's pathetic lies that he would look after Roshana from now on, blah, blah, blah, and they hand-cuffed him.
"We apologize, Lore" the police woman said. "I ... - the police department has no excuse. We'll definitely update our laws. From now on any parent - or anyone who abandons or abuses disabled children will be placed under arrest."
Lore smiled. "Good."
"We can find substitute parents for Roshana," the police man said.
"I thank you for the offer, but I don't think she's ready to leave yet, and I'll gladly take the responsibility for her and the other children here."
The police smiled. "It's not everyday we come across such a caring citizen. I hope more will come."
Lore smiled at them. "I'm sure they will."
The police woman have Lore a guilty smile. "Uh ... I'm sorry to tell you this, but we didn't bring keys for your handcuffs. We were intending to take you straight back to the station. You'll have to come with us so we can-"
"No problem," Lore said, pulling his wrists apart, snapping the chain, and then he twisted the metal cuffs off his wrists."
The police and Roshana's 'father' stared in awe, not sure what to think. Lore crushed the broken metal, and then swallowed the ball he'd made. "I hope they weren't expensive," and he gave the police a friendly smile.
They all stood there for a few moments, then the police hustled Roshana's 'father' out of the room.
"We'll have a restraining order against him in case he escapes and we entitle you to use whatever force necessary." And with that they turned away. Before they left, Lore clamped his hand down hard on Roshana's 'father's' sore shoulder. If he had been any tighter, he would have crushed the man's bones. Lore glared into the man's eyes and said softly, but menacingly, "if you EVER come back here I intend to use whatever force necessary and more."
Lore wasn't sure what he saw in the other man's eyes - anger, guilt, fear - or all of them? Whatever. He cared never to see the bastard again and threw him out of the school - literally.
Lore returned to his classroom and told them that everything was all right.
"Glad to have you back," Hamble said. "They really are delightful children."
And then she saw Josca trying to look up her skirt and smiled. "Most of the time."
Lore gently pushed the boy away. "Thanks for looking after them," he said to Hamble.
Lore smiled. He really liked her. A quite few of the students were helpful, but there was something about Hamble that he liked more. And he had just discovered what it was. She reminded him of Data. It surprised him at first, but then he thought about it. She was innocent, pristine and proper, but nice, friendly and helpful, her parents really cared about her and were good to her. She had many friends and she had pale white skin. Of course she looked nothing like Data and she was very different in many ways - and Lore was amazed that he wasn't jealous of her at all. He hoped that when he and his brother did finally meet that it would be on better terms than the previous time, but there was no time to think of that now - he had a class to teach.
Seth came to him, relieved that the ordeal was over and she hugged him. She was a very caring person and Lore was glad to have met her in his lifetime.
Lore felt sorry for Roshana being related to that man, but she was right to disown him and he was proud of her for that. She was mature for her age. Lore spent many days counselling her and she responded better to him than any professional counsellors who he had hired at first. Lore promised she could stay at the school for as long as she wanted and Roshana was quite relieved. Lore didn't believe in taking something from someone until they were ready. He'd done his share of bad things in his life and he was doing his best to make his life worth something - worth living and something to be proud of.
One afternoon, Lore was sitting on top of the shelf ledge, teaching the children. He looked out of the windows and saw Mr. Clancy, wearing a bright red and blue suit. He'd also had his hair cut, styled, and looked rather smart. Much better than the sadly, dull dressed person who had come into his classroom that day. Mr. Clancy turned around, saw Lore and excitedly waved. Lore was taken a little back, then smiled and waved back. Jeme Clancy had obviously undergone a significant change - a change for the better and Lore hoped that more people saw the good in these children and changed for the better too.
* * *
Roshana and the children trusted Lore explicitly and they even let him bath them. Lore thought Roshana and some of the other children would be nervous with him in the bathroom, but he was more nervous than they were! They knew he would never hurt or abuse them in any way and they liked the way he washed their hair and tickled them while they were bathing. They knew Lore was always there for them when they needed him - but that didn't stop them from mucking up in class!
Lore lay on the floor while Roshana played with his hair, He closed his eyes at her gentle ruffling of his hair, her hands running smoothly through his thick, knot free hair. She let him play with her long hair, brush it and braid it. She sometimes slept in Lore's lap and liked to stay close by him. Lore coaxed her to play with the other children too, because he knew it would be hard for her if she grew too attached to him. Roshana enjoyed playing with the other children and they liked to play with her as well, glad she was no longer the frightened isolated girl stuck in the corner. She had become quite a lively child and even began to talk to some of the older students. Hamble adored her!
Now that Roshana no longer clung to the lockers like super glue, Lore thought to take them out of the classroom, because they were not used and it would make the classroom more spacious. Lore walked to the lockers. He'd never had a good look at them, because until recently Roshana hadn't let him near her while she was there. They were an ugly, murky dark grey, more than half the locks were broken and some were rusty, and Lore was amazed at the junk which was inside them: old clothes, shoes, broken stationary, old papers and a lot of dust. Lore moved the lockers and was surprised to see another set of lockers adjacent to this one, but these lockers were beige in color and new-looking and not broken an he also discovered that the classroom had a front door. Well, you learn something new every day! Lore threw the junk from the old lockers into the garbage bin and called the dumpsters to come and collect the old lockers. In the meantime Lore checked the 'new' lockers. There was nothing inside them. Miraculously one of the locks were broken and Lore found a set of keys in the first locker, which was unlocked. He decided to keep this set of lockers, in case they were needed and it would be a shame to throw them away. They would be good for storage and in case the children wanted to use them to lock things in. He moved the beige lockers to the side of the front door and they fit perfectly. Lore positioned the large-ish table so it did not take up as much space as it had done previously. The dumpsters did not take long to get rid of the old lockers. Lore also called carpet cleaners to clean the carpet. He had no idea the last time it was cleaned, and he made a mental note to get it cleaned at least three times a year. He gathered the children and lead them into the bedroom, picked up the table, placed upside down it on the ledge-shelf and stacked the chairs on top of it to prepare for the carpet cleaners and he moved the craft cupboard and lockers into the corridor.
The cleaners did not take as long as Lore had expected. He'd never had a carpet cleaned before! It was dry when they had finished, surprised to see the grey-brown was actually light brown, looking cleaner and shiny and it felt nice and silky. The children liked it a lot and couldn't stop running their hands over it. Lore handed them each a key for a locker and wrote each child's name on one and there were a few spare.
Seth liked the bigger looking classroom. "It looks so much bigger. It's amazing how people can change something for the better when something's been there for so long!" Lore smiled too. Seth was impressed with the clean carpet and asked the carpet cleaners to do the rest of the school. Lore offered to pay for it, but Seth told him that the school could handle the expense - and she also hired Lore to help her clean and organize the rest of the school. Lore smiled despite himself. He found he quite liked tidying and organizing!
* * *
The children quite liked sitting at the art table, with the stationary strewn everywhere. Lore was glad he'd bought it. He liked to watch them painting, pasting, sewing, cutting, drawing, writing and sculpting away and he smiled.
He'd made sculptures an drawn a few things himself. He found he quite liked it! Some of the children came to him to help them with their art and he liked helping them making what they wanted to make and showing them how to make and draw the things they wanted. Occasionally the art table was cleaned. Lore made sure he bought one which was easy to clean! And the children were learning to become more organized.
* * *
Lore spent many months with the children, teaching them, spending time with them, playing with them and caring for them. All of which he thoroughly enjoyed. He enjoyed playing all sorts of games with them, both inside and outside. He'd bought many different games at the toy shop, all of which were fun, safe and very enjoyable! And they'd made up their own games too!
Lore was grateful to see that now the new laws had been introduced - outlawing abuse and abandonment, greater care and responsibility had been taken by parents and citizens, and native Magraticans started to realize that disability wasn't a bad thing - disabled people could not help the way there were and that should be accepted as they are. Disabled people, they learned could be a special and unique gift. Better text and story books were written and greater care was taken of intellectually disabled adults and children and their needs were fulfilled - and the Magraticans were astounded at the beauty, joy, wonder and life these people brought to the world - and ashamed that they didn't see it before. Lore felt proud of himself. He knew this time he'd really done something right. He'd helped these people - not only the children, and disabled people, but helped other people see what beauty these former outcasts brought. He'd helped them respect life and he'd learned to respect it himself. The Magratican people accepted him and praised him for opening their eyes. Some of them had even started training to become teachers and counsellors for people with learning disabilities.
Lore had taken the risk of telling the people of Magratica that he was an android. Some of them didn't even know what an android was and didn't care that he was different - and those who did know what androids were, accepted Lore for the good he'd brought their world and what he'd taught them. Lore was very popular and well liked and these people looked up to him - and he liked that, but this time he hadn't forced that onto anyone. It had come naturally.
* * *
In another part of the galaxy a starship cruised at impulse speed - the USS Enterprise NCC 1701-D.
In the Observation Lounge, the senior officers had gathered.
"Are you sure it's the same signal?" Riker asked, looking over at Data.
"Positive, Sir. As you know, I've created a tachyon conduit and sent a sensor probe through. When it was retrieved after its extensive search, I retrieved the information it had gathered. You're all aware that Lore escaped in a Borg shuttle. I analyzed a specific, but faint energy signal gathered by my probe - which can be nothing else but a Borg shuttle - and we only know of one such shuttle in existence."
"Lore's," Riker mused.
"Bingo, baby, you got it!" Data said with a smile. "...Sir." The crew had become used to Data's new emotions, and his new contraction program, glad their friend finally fulfilled his fondest desire.
"Though ... it's going to be even harder to tell you two apart."
"Not necessarily, Geordi," Deanna said. "I sensed Lore's emotions when we were captured by him. They were vastly different from Data's."
"The energy readings," Data continued, "indicate that the shuttle's no longer operational. It's a miracle that its signature was picked up at all."
"This information was sent to both Starfleet Command, and the head of the Federation," Captain Picard said. "Just now, I received their authorization to stop Lore from wreaking any more havoc across the universe, by whatever means necessary."
"We must proceed with caution," Worf growled.
Picard nodded. "Agreed. God only knows what havoc Lore's created since he escaped. I want a minimal away team, to minimise loss of life. Three maximum, armed and ready for anything. When we arrive, I don't want any chances taken." Picard's tone was serious. "Since Lore's shuttle is incapacitated, it's most likely that he's still on the planet, and unlikely that he'd be anywhere near the shuttle. I want that planet scanned for any mechanical life signs. Unfortunately we can't use the transporter when we locate him - in fear of interfering with that planet's culture. Locate an isolated spot and beam down."
"It will be done," Worf said.
Picard nodded and turned to his android officer. "The team will consist of, Data, you know more about Lore than any of us, Deanna, to sense them apart and you, Will."
The officers dutifully stood.
"I will not fail to stop him this time, Sir," Data promised.
Picard nodded. "Dismissed."
The officers all stood to leave, except Deanna. Data was the last to leave. Deanna had heard the anger in his voice and also in his soul.
"Data," she said, "I know you're angry with your brother and I can't blame you, but just consider that me might have learnt from his mistakes. Have you considered that possibility - that Lore may have had a change of heart?"
Data almost laughed and Deanna sensed that.
"Perhaps," he said, "but first there'll be a cold day in hell."
And with that he turned on his heel and left.
Deanna sighed. Inside Data she sensed a turmoil of emotions - longing for Lore to have changed, his anger toward his brother, and that part of him that was angry, hurt and upset, feeling that Lore may never change or mature, and the guilt Data felt for not trying to help his brother. Deanna sighed again. One day Data would try and come to terms with his feelings about his brother, and when that time came, she knew she would have to keep a clear schedule.
The officers assumed their positions on the bridge. Deanna had stopped 'probing' Data. It was upsetting her and she hoped Data could sort out his feelings and she would help him when the time came, but more pressing concerns lay ahead.
From the OPS console Data said, "opening the conduit now, Captain."
The conduit could be seen forming on the starboard side of the starfield lit viewscreen.
"Take her in," Picard ordered.
The helm responded by cruising forward until the Enterprise was pulled into the conduit.
* * *
Today as everyday, Lore was enjoying playing with the children. He found he rather enjoyed children's activities and was glad to experience them as he never had the chance when he was young. He'd bought the class a television set, on which they watched programs suitable for children, fun and educational programs. Lore found he enjoyed some of the cartoons as much as the children did! However rowdy the class was, Lore didn't care. He loved and cared about them, as though they were his own and they cared about him - even when they were jumping all over him - like now.
* * *
Three shimmering lights began to appear in the forest ....
Had there been anyone nearby, they would have seen the away team from the Enterprise beam down.
When fully re-materialized, Data withdrew his tricorder and scanned the surrounding area.
"The shuttle's nearby. This way."
A glint of metal could be seen in the forest as morning sun shone through the trees. The shuttle had partly been overgrown by vines and other vegetation. Data scanned it with his tricorder.
"There's definitely no one inside," he announced.
"Let's take a look anyway," Riker said,
Data gave a nod and with an effort, ripped the hatch open. The three stepped inside.
"Whoh!" Riker exclaimed, as he surveyed the debris and the smashed control panels. "What a mess! Must've been quite an impact."
Data nodded in agreement. "Either that or my brother had a temper tantrum."
"Do you think Lore survived the crash?" Deanna asked.
"It seems most likely," Data replied, "otherwise his body would be here and no other life forms have been in this shuttle, other than Lore and ourselves."
"Can you locate Lore?" Riker asked.
Data nodded. "I can lock onto his life signs, if he has not left this planet, which seems unlikely as they have not yet acquired space travel." Data adjusted his tricorder. "I've located him, sir, in the vicinity of the town, in that direction." Data pointed South. "He's in the proximity of several other life forms in a stone building and isn't making any attempt to escape."
"He's obviously not expecting visitors."
"He should not be so cocky," Data said, shutting his tricorder, forcefully.
Deanna sensed his anger and tried to ease the situation. "What do you suppose he's up to?"
"It would not be hard to guess, Counsellor," Data replied, "and if we don't act now the situation will become worse. It's good that Lore isn't aware of our presence. We mustn't lose the element of surprise. I won't let him escape this time."
"It wasn't your fault, Data," Riker said. "You did your best to stop him last time. Failure isn't anything to be ashamed of."
"I know, Sir, but in a way I feel responsible for whatever damage Lore has caused since then."
"You're not your brother's keeper," Deanna said to him. "You can't be responsible for any harm he may have done, but I understand how you feel."
Data nodded. "Thank you."
"C'mon," Riker said. "Let's go."
And without any further ado, the trio left at a quickened pace.
Before long Data, Riker and Deanna had emerged from the forest into the town.
"I'm picking up Lore from within that grey stone building complex."
Deanna read the sign. "Lady Seth School."
"My God ..." Data dropped his tricorder in shock. "The people he's with are children." He quickly picked up the tricorder, embarrassed at having dropped it and hastily shoved it into its holster. "Who knows what he's done to those children ... What he's put them through ... Is there no end to what he will do ... I never dreamed even he could be so low, evil and cruel ..."
"We can all misjudge people, Data," Deanna told him. "Even family. I can't sense any malevolent emotions from him, but he could be masking them."
Data winced at that. He and Riker reached for their phasers and headed toward the school, followed by Deanna, all hoping to avoid a violent confrontation. They ran into the school. and were confronted by Seth.
"Can I help you people?" she asked, somewhat befuddled.
"We're after Lore," Data said. "Where is he?"
"Down the corridor to the left, in the last classroom," Seth replied, confused at the newcomers abrupt attitude. She watched them run past her. Seth watched the one who looked like Lore. She was confused at first, then remembered Lore telling her when he first started at the school that he had a brother - and that their relationship wasn't too good. "I hope everything's all right ..." she said to herself, unable to take her mind off it, even when she tried to think of something else. She was unaware that the newcomers were armed, as she had never seen a phaser before.
As the children clambered over him, Lore laughed to himself inwardly. This is child abuse - they're abusing me! And he was loving every minute of it! Lore loved teaching them, joining in activities and playing with the little wonders - or was that terrors?!
Data ran down the corridor followed by Riker and Deanna. Data stopped abruptly when he came to the closed door. Riker and Deanna almost ran into him.
"We can't startle him," Data said in a barely audible whisper. I don't want to take any chances."
Very carefully and slowly, Data opened the door, and aimed his phaser ...
What met the three officers eyes astonished and confused the hell out of them. There was Lore, lying on the floor, his head facing away from them, with children jumping all over him, pulling his hair, his clothes, nose - pulling everything, trying to tickle him, all the while, making a colossal ruckus. Lore facing the other way, seemingly helpless, against this merciless, relentless barrage of little bodies, uttered a single word: "Help ...."
The Enterprise officers stared, not knowing what to think.
Some of the children became aware of them and seemed confused when they saw Data. Lore noticed the children quietening down and began to sit up.
"There's a man who looks like you," Roshana whispered.
Lore frowned, a tad confused, then looked around and almost fainted as he felt a rush, more like a bombardment of chemical nutrients to his head. He became aware of his slightly ajar mouth and shut it. He stood very slowly, never taking his eyes of Data, nor Data off Lore.
Shona, one of the newer girls came to Lore. "Can we play?" she asked, taking his hand. Lore looked at her, thanking whatever deity for the distraction. "Not now," he said gently. "I have some important ... things to do. but we can later."
Lore felt uncomfortable, feeling Data's glare boring right through him. He gathered the children and led them into the back room.
"Can you all stay in here for a while? I have some things to sort out."
Roshana gave a worried look.
"It's all right," Lore said softly. "He's my brother."
Lore closed the door and turned around, to face Data, knowing all too well, it was anything but all right.
He tried to stop himself from swallowing, but didn't succeed. Data's phaser was still firmly trained on his head.
Through his fear and obvious nervousness, Lore frowned at the sarcasm in Data's voice. Uncomfortable, he shifted position.
"Don't move," Data snapped, his voice cold.
Lore definitely noticed the anger in his brother's voice, and the contraction. "You installed the chip." It was a statement.
"So what if I did?"
Lore had a million things to ask Data - to talk to him, but he didn't know where to start or what to say and he was hardly in a position to do the talking.
"Put the phaser down," he finally said after a long silence. "Please."
"I may have feelings now," Data said, "and trusting you is definitely not one of them."
Lore felt genuinely hurt by that, but could not blame his brother. Secretly he felt glad for Data - and guilty about what he had done. He had always thought that he and his brother would meet up again - but he'd never considered the consequences or the initial shock. Lore said nothing and patiently waited for Data, Riker or Deanna to say something - surely Deanna could sense what he was feeling?
"What have you been doing here?" Data said, more a demand than a question.
Lore took a breath and started at the beginning about running into the school, away from the police offices which he mistook for Starfleet officers at first. Lore noticed Data's coldness momentarily slip is he almost smiled. Lore continued about meeting Seth, inadvertently landing in a teaching job and teaching the disabled children.
There was silence for a while
"Let me get this straight," Riker said, "Seth 'employed' you as a teacher?"
Lore nodded - and could feel them laughing and was hurt, but felt he couldn't blame them.
"I know how ..." Lore couldn't help but smile, "...weird this may sound to you, but it's true."
"And just what have you been teaching these children?" Riker asked.
What seemed like an age ago, Lore's temper would have flared at that statement, but now, he merely accepted it and accepted the Enterprise crew's scepticism. "I've been teaching them what they need to know to survive on this world, improving their skills and developing their creative talents."
"Like you 'developed' the Borg?"
Lore could have snapped, but kept his cool. "Look at the books over there, Riker, if you don't believe me - they're the children's exercise books, story books, text books and," Lore pointed to a brought yellow box, "their artwork. In the green box is their creative writing. Feel free to browse. I have nothing to hide and if you're so against me, ask the children."
Riker looked at Deanna and she nodded.
"And," Lore said, "would you please put those damned phasers away? Scan the room - there are no weapons here."
Ricker scanned the room and nodded. "All clear," and the officers holstered their weapons, Data making sure he kept a safe distance from Lore, and kept his hand close to his phaser in case Lore went for it. Lore walked to the back of the classroom and opened the door. He gathered the anxious children.
"These people are going to ask you some questions," he said. Don't lie to them and don't be afraid. They won't hurt you."
"Who are they?" Ryan asked.
"The one who looks like me is my brother, Data. The other two are Commander William T. Riker and Counsellor Deanna Troi from .... outer space."
"Outer space!" Atreyu Noah exclaimed. "Wow! Like you!"
Lore smiled and nodded. "I did a few ... bad things," he admitted, "when I was with them and they want to know what I'm doing here."
"But you haven't done anything bad here," Roshana said.
Lore nodded. "I know that, but they don't." He chose his words carefully, because he knew the Enterprise officers were listening to every one.
Lore took the children into the classroom and seated them on the floor. Data and Riker had agreed to allow Deanna to do the questioning as they felt the children would feel more comfortable with her. Deanna knelt on the floor.
"What do you do here?" she asked.
"We learn," Aleliz said. "Lore teaches us."
"What does he teach you?"
"Lots of things."
"Well he taught us how to do maths properly. He also teaches us science, history, art, how to draw and write good stories, how to understand others, about our planet, Magratica, and our rights and other planets. He also made our classroom and where we live nice."
"You all live here?" Deanna asked, surprised.
"Lore takes care of us," Roshana said. "He got nice food and he's very nice to us. He sometimes reads us stories at bedtime when we ask him."
"And he cleans our mess," another child added.
Lore heard a soft sound from Data, which he interpreted as a soft snicker, which he was not meant to hear.
"Can you show me the things you do here?" Deanna asked.
Some of the children pulled out their exercise books and artwork and began to show the Enterprise crew. Data flipped through the exercise, text and story books, and the artwork. The children showed Deanna the art cupboard with some of the other paintings they had created and on the top of the ledge, some of their sculptures were displayed. The officers agreed there was nothing malevolent.
"What world are your from?" Titama asked.
"I'm from Betazoid."
"You're telepathic!" Wilya said.
"What number am I thinking of?" Jorelana asked. "It's between one and ten."
Deanna smiled. "Six million,and six."
The girl giggled. "You're good!"
Deanna smiled again.
The three officers spent quite a long time talking with the children, before Seth walked in. Lore introduced the officers. Deanna sensed the woman's nervousness - so could the others, even though they did not have Deanna's empathic powers. Data was almost certain Seth's nervousness was due to Lore - and he was right in a sense. She was nervous of what was going to happen to him.
"We'd better speak to you in private," Riker said to her.
The officers began to leave the room and Data motioned for Lore to join them.
"I'll be back," he said to the children.
Seth sat in the office with the Enterprise officer and Lore.
"Do you know who this person is?" Riker asked.
Riker nodded. "At least he gave you his real name. What else did he tell you?"
Seth thought back. "That he was escaping his brother."
"And you took that as having family problems," Deanna said, sensing it was something like that, and before Seth could say anything more Riker spoke. "Have you any idea why Lore was trying to escape? Have you any idea what he had done in the past?"
"I've always felt he'd done something very bad," Seth said, to Lore's astonishment.
He'd wanted to tell her, but afraid he would frighten her and cause her to reject him and not let him near the children and he hadn't wanted to frighten the children either.
Seth continued. "Whatever it was, I could somehow sense that he wanted to overcome it and that he wanted to put it behind him and start again and I believe he's doing that here. He's never hurt those children in any way or forced them to do anything against their will, with the exception of mathematics."
Lore smiled at that, silently thanking Seth for the slight comic relief. He turned to Deanna.
"Why don't you sense me? If you probe deeply enough you'll know that I mean no harm here - or anywhere else."
Lore looked directly at her, making Deanna feel uncomfortable, then she settled. She closed her eyes, opened her mind and let it come into contact with Lore's and in just a few moments was overwhelmed.
"What is it, Counsellor?" Data asked, concerned.
Deanna's face showed the influx of emotion she was feeling.
"I'm all right," she said, and it was then she realized she was crying. She wiped the tears away from her cheeks and told them what she had sensed.
"I sense that Lore has absolutely no malicious intentions here. He cares deeply for those children."
Riker looked at him. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you forced those feelings into her head."
Lore bit back an angry snap and said, "I realize and understand your disbelief. I'm sorry for what I did before an I'm trying to make amends - and I believe I have here. All those children have learning disabilities and were unwanted and rejected by society - and believe me I know how that feels." Lore looked at each of the officers in turn.
Despite feeling angry with Lore and prepared to instantly disbelieve him, Data found himself wanting to believe his brother now more than ever and Counsellor Troi's testimony had almost proved that. He spoke to Lore.
"I'm going to run a check on Magratica's systems to be sure you haven't engaged in any criminal, illegal activities."
"I can save you the trouble," Lore said, and told Data about increasing his pay credits on occasion, "to buy things for the children - to help them - things most people take for granted, like books, clothes, toys, blankets ... etcetera."
Data looked at Lore for a few moments. "Robin Hood?"
Lore smiled and continued with the analogy. "Lore of Loxley... something like that."
At that point it was decided to return to the classroom. Lore had a folder in which he kept photographs he had taken of the classroom and its contents before he fixed it up and after.
And he had kept a copy of the book, "The day the girl ran away because her father lost the dog. And she was really angry," to show others what crap had been written and he showed it to the Enterprise crew.
"Your old poetry was better," Riker commented to Data, who gave a smile.
Seth and Lore began to explain to the Enterprise crew the improvements that Lore had made.
Everybody's attention turned to the side door of the classroom, as it opened, revealing a slender long red haired woman, dressed in a while shirt and long grey shirt. She smiled when she saw Data.
"There you are ..." Then she saw Lore and became confused.
"He's my brother," Lore told her.
"Oh," the woman, then turned to Lore, and smiled. "You haven't changed a bit."
Lore became puzzled. Who was this woman? Surely he would never forget someone - and definitely not someone this beautiful.
The woman giggled. "You don't remember me, do you?"
Lore sheepishly shook his head, hoping not to offend her.
"I guess it's because I grew so fast! I used to be in your class - the little red head..." She shook her head, causing her hair to flare up.
Lore's eyes widened. "Selma?"
She nodded. "Little Selma."
Without hesitation, Lore threw his arms around her. "Not so little anymore."
Selma returned Lore's embrace, with the Enterprise officers witnessing in amazed disbelief. The two broke from the embrace.
"You have grown," Lore said to her. "What are you doing now?"
"I'm the head of a new computer company," Selma announced proudly. "It's so wonderful - and no one even feels the slightest bit against me because of my disability. I've even made some new friends."
"Sometimes I feel that we're not the disabled ones, Lore said, "but congratulations!"
"If it wasn't for you none of this would have happened." Selma kissed his cheek. Lore wiped a tear away from his face.
"I'm so happy for you ..." Lore had never been this happy for anyone before and it made him feel great - to use his skills to help others and having them achieving acceptance, friendship and a place to belong, and without making the mistakes he made and being hurt and rejected, meant a great deal.
Roshana came to Selma and tugged on her skirt. Selma looked down and smiled, and was very surprised when Roshana allowed her to pick her up. She played with Selma's long, silky, auburn hair. "Pretty," she said with a smile.
Selma smiled. "I'm not the only one who's pretty," and she patted Roshana's nose. The little girl giggled, and Selma put her down. "I can't thank you enough," she said, looking into Lore's yellow eyes.
"I can't thank you enough," he said to her.
At first Selma was confused, but she seemed to understand.
"I'm so happy with my work," she said, "and I'm beginning to really get myself organized ... but more than that, at the achievement." She turned to Data. "You really have a wonderful brother. He's taught us, helped us and cared for us. He's really amazing."
Data couldn't help thinking she meant someone else, but his eyes betrayed that thought. Deanna sensed nothing but admiration, compassion and love radiating from Selma toward Lore - not sexual love - she loved him for what he had done for her and the other children and for his belief in them. No one had done for them what Lore had. No one had cared that much. Selma's emotions were simple, clear, but yet so sincere and deep. Deanna closed her eyes and allowed herself to sense the other children's emotions - some not quite as clear as Selma's, but they all appreciated Lore and trusted him. Lore and this class were the only family that had and this school was their home, even although they jumped all over their teacher. Deanna let out a giggle, then she became aware of Roshana - her tortured past, her withdrawal from all those around her and how Lore had helped her. Her feelings were indeed clear. Deanna opened her eyes, touched. She looked at Roshana, who seemed uneasy.
"It's all right," Lore calmed.
Roshana allowed Deanna to sit, cross legged next to her. Deanna asked Roshana if she could show her some of her creative work. Roshana agreed and Lore brought it to Deanna. Some of Roshana's pictures were self explanatory, and she drew and painted beautifully for a child - even for an adult. She had painted a picture of Lore in water colors, of which Lore was unaware of until now and he was touched by it. Roshana explained to Deanna what her more obscure pictures meant. There was so much feeling for such a little girl. Deanna did not let herself become overwhelmed, and she thanked Roshana for sharing with her. Lore brought Deanna other children's pictures. Every child in the class had drawn at least one picture of Lore. Lore promised Data that he had not made them do it. Data smiled at one pencil drawing, that showed Lore with a big smirk.
Deanna looked up at Data and Riker. "Lore is most definitely telling the truth. He means absolutely no harm to Magratica, or these children - even when they jump on him," she added with a smile.
Data and Riker smiled too. Lore asked the children to pack away their work.
"They're lovely children," Deanna said.
"I know," Lore said to her, sincere.
"You have helped them," Data said to him. "I mean really helped."
Lore nodded. "As hard as it may be to believe."
"Picard to Data."
Both brothers were startled at first at ther resonant voice bursting from Data's communicator badge. Data composed himself, feeling a tad embarrassed, and tapped it. "Data here, go ahead, sir."
"Report. What's your situation down there?"
It would have taken a very trained ear to notice the anxiousness in Picard's voice.
"Everything's under control, sir."
"What of Lore?"
Data hesitated. "He's here."
Deanna touched her combadge. "It's all right, Captain."
"We'll give a full report when we return, sir," Riker said.
"Very well, but bring Lore back with you to make certain he does not escape."
"Restraints would be advisable," came Worf's voice.
"That won't be necessary. Data out." And he ended communication to avoid any more confusion or inquiries.
Picard had obviously had Worf scan the area for life sings. Lore might have overcome them and be using their voices as a ruse - he hadn't, but one could never be too cautious.
Lore turned to the children.
"I'm going with them for a little while. Don't be frightened."
"We'll be okay," Mishka said.
"Will you be driving there?" asked Zoisite.
Lore smiled. "No. It's a special from of transportation they have. Don't worry - every thing's going to be fine."
Deanna sensed that beneath his exterior facade, Lore was as scared as Hades - more nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, both for himself and the children.
"Enterprise, four to beam up," Data said.
The children were quite surprised when they saw the four vanish, but then Lore had told them it was a special form of transportation and they eagerly awaited his return.
Worf had Lore placed in the brig. Lore understood the reasoning, but he couldn't seem to convince Worf that he didn't mean anyone any harm.
Captain Picard sat around the conference table with Riker, Data, Beverly, Deanna, Geordi and Worf.
Data, Deanna and Riker gave the Captain their reports - each gave an individual account of what they'd seen on Magratica, how they had perceived the situation and what they had felt.
"Well, I'll be dammed," Picard said, evident surprise in his voice, after they'd finished giving their accounts. "Here we are, all set to go down there with phasers a blazing ... And we're the ones who're taught the lesson."
Worf seemed reluctant, but finally cashed in his chips with a grunt and a nod.
"I never thought I'd see the day," Geordi said.
Beverly nodded. "You know, there's always something about Lore that I never could put my finger on. Data, you've got a strange brother, but I really think he's coming around, as if he's found his way."
Data looked at Dr. Crusher and nodded. "I agree."
Picard looked at Data. "I'd like you to come with me while I visit Lore in the brig."
"Yes, sir," Data said, standing.
Picard and Data stood before Lore. Lore stood before the force shield.
"Forgive the unpleasantness," Picard said, "but we-"
"There's no need to apologize, Captain. I've hardly been buddy-buddy with you guys."
"Forcefield off," Picard ordered, and the shied keeping Lore within the cell, disappeared, however Lore stayed within the confines of the cell.
"Data, Counsellor Troi and Commander Riker have given me their reports," Picard said.
"And I am confident that you mean no harm to Magratica - or anyplace else in the universe. In fact you have turned the harm down there into good."
"Those children needed me," Lore said. "They were rejected and unwanted and didn't have a sense or purpose - just like me."
Picard gave an understanding nod. "Well I'd best let you get back there then."
"What?" Lore said, surprised.
"We can't have those children destroying your classroom, now, can we?"
Lore gave a small smile. "Thank you, but I don't understand... Isn't the Federation-"
"Data located your shuttle and orders were 'to stop Lore from wreaking any more havoc across the universe,' and since you've stopped wreaking havoc yourself, you don't need us to do it for you and as that makes our order null and void."
"But don't they want to disassemble me?"
"I would imagine so, but you are no longer a danger."
"All differences aside," Lore said, "I'm glad you came here now, although you gave me damned a good scare at first ... Is the Federation going to punish me for what I did?"
The question had the simplicity and fear of a child who was about to be spanked. Picard didn't need Deanna's empathic powers to sense how frightened the android was.
"You've been punished and suffered enough in your life - one just needs to know what you've been through and seeing what you've done on Magratica proves that there is good in you and that you are no longer a danger to yourself or others. It would not be within our moral codes to punish you further, seeing the good you've done and the good you can still do."
Lore gave a relieved sigh and a warm, heartfelt smile.
"The Universe works in mysterious ways," Picard said.
Lore looked at him. "You're tellin' me ..."
Picard gave a nod, then turned to Data. "I'll leave you two alone. There's a lot you need to catch up on." And with that, Picard strode out of the cell, leaving the two androids alone.
"I always wanted to believe you had it in you," Data said. "Now I know."
Lore smiled. "I guess I do too."
There was pin-drop silence for a long while.
"Lore," Data said, breaking it, "I'm sorry ..."
"I'm the one who should be sorry."
"Don't say it. There's so much we could have learned from each other. If we had tried to understand one and other .... But that's all in the past now. What matters now is the future - And we are learning from each other. I forgive you, Lore and even though it's taken me a long while to realize it... I love you, Brother."
Data could control himself no longer. He stepped forward and threw his arms around his brother. Lore almost fell over in astonishment, but gladly returned the embrace, tears filling both their eyes. Part of Lore didn't want to leave, but knew he must.
"Hey," Data said with a smile, "it's not like we'll never see each other again."
Lore smiled too. "You're right - you know, I know we'll meet again sometime."
"And next time," Data said, "I promise I won't stick a phaser in your face."
And Lore laughed.
Lore materialised back in the classroom. The children were very interested at how the transporter worked, so he explained it to them in very basic language. Even children without learning disabilities would have trouble understanding some thing so technical! Lore told them what had happened. He also told them that he'd done some bad things and hurt a lot of people, but the children seemed to understand. They knew he would never hurt them, and were grateful that he had helped them. Lore was grateful for that magnitude of understanding. He let the children take the rest of the day off, to which they squealed with excitement because it was only the middle of the day. Some started to play, others read. Lore had bought the some children some more wordy books with less pictures. They had learned to read, write and spell properly. Some children were better readers than others and Lore took his time teaching the slow learners. The bookshop was quite diverse, having books from all sorts of cultures, even ones from Earth. Lore didn't mind buying things for the children. He never spoiled them rotten, because that would do them no good in future, but he bought them things they really needed and wanted. Some of the children wanted to go on with craft work, which Lore happily allowed. He noticed they did not need to be supervised so much anymore, and he allowed them to take out the supplies they needed. He noticed they were almost out of paper, so he went to Seth's stationary cupboard in her office.
"Hello, Lore, how are you doing?"
Lore saw Seth was wearing a brightly colored, nicely styled dress Lore had bought her.
"Fine," he smiled. "It was great to see my brother again, after the shock."
"You could have told me," Seth said.
"I know .. please don't be angry or disappointed with me ... But I didn't want to risk it."
Seth nodded understandingly. "I know how you feel," she said. "I ran the risk of losing this school many times - a chance, risk I couldn't take and I fought people who tried to take it form me in court. I couldn't let them know how weak I was."
"You're not weak, Seth."
Seth nodded. "Not in spirit, but I won't last forever, Lore. With you here I feel secure. Maybe you did some bad things in your past, but you've done nothing bad here and you don't intend to. I can feel that. And Lore, when I die-"
"Don't say that."
"It will happen one of these days. I'm afraid all biological beings die sometime ... and when it happens I leave this school to you."
Lore didn't know what to say at first. It seemed as if what Seth had just said had come out of the blue, but Lore sensed she'd been thinking about it and wanting to tell Lore for some time. "I am honored, Lady Seth," Lore said, then picked her up and gently swung her around.
"Oohh! You make me feel so young!"
"Let's hope you stay that way!" Lore said with a smile. He was truly honored that Seth would think so highly of him and it made him feel wonderful on the inside - and the outside! And when the time came, Lore would make damned sure he never let Seth down.
* * *
Lore taught at the school for many years. Little Zoisite, not so little anymore, had gone on to become a well renowned and experienced geologist and Lore was proud of him. Lore sorely missed Roshana when she progressed to a higher class, but he felt fiercely proud of her achievements. Roshana had been in his class for quite a while. As well as a learning disability, she had a growth deformity, meaning she took at least three times the average to increase her growth, but now she had and Lore cared for her, no matter what. She was also more mature, but still had her childlike wonder, which Lore hoped she never lost. Roshana was still quite small when she left Lore's class. Lore had let her take her bear, doggie and car. She often visited him, until she left the school. Roshana wrote Lore many letters, but she had moved out of town, and could not visit him. Lore hoped to see her again sometime. Form her letters, she sounded like she'd grown into a fine woman. She had told Lore that she'd learned martial arts in case any man be foolish enough to attack her!
Hamble had gone on to become a teacher here at Seth's school and Lore was proud of her too, even although she was never in his class. Lore took great pleasure in teaching the children in his class - every one of them - new and old. Some of the newer children in Lore's class were adolescents. At first they felt embarrassed and out of place, and sometimes cried a lot in private, but Lore soon made them feel welcome and wanted. The younger children were eager to help and play with the older children, and Lore was willing to spend more time with them to help them catch up. Lore also set up facilities for adults with learning disabilities - adults who weren't fortunate enough to be cared for as children. He had helped them, and trained other teachers how to help people with disabilities. It was surprising to find out just how many people did have some sort of mental disability and how society could have shut out so many people. Lore was grateful that was in the past now and society accepted those different from the 'norm.'
* * *
One afternoon, Lore was sitting down with his class, reading them a new book he'd bought, about making chocolate, to which everyone in the class paid great attention. Lore finished the book, and put it back on the shelf, just as he heard the door open. Lore turned his head and saw an average height, slender woman, dressed in a cool Summery white dress with long, dark wavy hair. Lore's mouth dropped open in immediate recognition.
A wide smile lit her face as she bounded to him and threw her arms around him. Lore did the same. He picked her up, then put her down and they disengaged.
"My, you've grown!"
Roshana smiled. "I have, haven't I? Sometimes I can't believe it either. I used to be so tiny!"
She began to tell Lore that she'd started up her own organization to teach and care for people, children and adults who were like she had been, rejected and abused or had problems they could not deal with. Roshana told Lore that she'd been having fantastic results with her counselling and care, but she was sad and amazed at just how many people had been abused. "You know, I used to think that I was wrong sometimes and that it had only happened to me and I was scared to talk about it."
"I'm sure a lot of people are."
"So many of the children are almost exactly like me - even some of the adults. They're all so special, and their parents - those who have them are so helpful. Some were abused away from home and there's been an huge crackdown on abuse, which is about bloody time."
Lore smiled. He'd never heard Roshana swear before, but he could tell how angry the mistreatment of others angered her. It maddened him too.
"I've made some very dear friends. Selma and I often go out to lunch. It's so weird, it seems .... And this classroom used to be a lot ... bigger..."
Lore smiled. "You've grown up, my girl."
Roshana smiled too. "Yeah .... and I couldn't've done it without you." She gave him a kiss. "I owe you everything."
"I can't take all the credit," Lore said, feeling overwhelmed at Roshana's achievement. "You earned it."
"I know, but if you hadn't helped me and believed in me - believed in all of us - and" she added with a smirk, "booted that horrid man out of the window," Lore smiled too, "it wouldn't've happened."
Lore hugged her, with a tear rolling down his cheek. "Thanks for believing in me too." Lore broke from the embrace. "You know I was always so worried about you, sitting in that corner and I wanted to help you, but I knew you'd be scared of me."
Roshana nodded her head and smiled. "Right from the beginning I knew you'd be different. I was still very nervous, but I always liked your eye and skin color."
Lore smiled. "Thanks. That's the first time anyone's complimented me on that."
Roshana smiled and continued. "I was scared when you came to me that night in the classroom. I knew you were much stronger than me, and I didn't want you to touch me, but when you spoke to me and said that you didn't want to hurt me, I knew you were telling the truth, even though was still scared, perhaps not of you, but reliving my past, but I never thought for one moment that you'd do to me what that man did. And when I had the nightmare about him coming to the classroom, I knew you would help me, and so I took it from there. It doesn't make me feel dirty or embarrassed or scared to take about what happened to me anymore. It's good to have grown in ways more than one."
"You see - you took the first step."
"All right, so I did," Roshana smiled "-but would you at least take some of the credit?!"
"Okay," Lore said smiling and patting her nose. "I've grown a lot too and I have you and the other children to thank for it."
Roshana smiled, and squeezed his shoulder. Lore turned to the class and introduced Roshana to them. Roshana asked how long she could stay and Lore told her as long as she wanted. She took great pleasure in teaching and playing with the children, working with them and making many crafty things. Lore came to her.
"You left all your craft things here. I've been saving them for you."
"Oh, thank you," Roshana said, genuinely pleased. "I thought they were lost forever..." She went through her stuff and fished out her robot city picture. "You can keep this one. I know you like it."
"Thank you, are you sure?"
"No," Roshana said jokingly. "Give it back."
Lore smiled. "Thank you, Roshana, I really appreciate this."
"It's the least I can do for all you've done for me and I want you to have it."
Lore smiled again, and got a A4 size burnt orange frame out of the craft cupboard, and inserted Roshana's picture, and then he showed her.
"Wow, it looks great!"
Lore took her to his bedroom, and hung it on the wall next to the cupboard and she kissed him. "I've also been selling artwork, when I have the time to do it."
Lore smiled. "I hope you make millions!"
"So do I! Well I made enough to buy my own apartment and live comfortably, which is more than I could have hoped for. It's what I always dreamed for."
"Dreams have a habit of coming true," Lore said. "Mine did."
Roshana smiled. "Do the children still jump on you?"
Lore saw the twinkle in her eye.
"Is the sun hot?"
Roshana smiled. "I always felt sad that I didn't take any of this with me and I always wanted it. Thanks for keeping everything - even the math books."
"I'm a bit of a hoarder sometimes," Lore said and Roshana smiled at that.
"I can't help it, I have to thank you for helping me again."
Lore smiled. "don't mention it. Thanks for helping me."
"My pleasure," Roshana said, "look I've got something for you - my mind still wanders. I was so excited to see you again. Come."
Roshana lead Lore outside the classroom, into the corridor. There were three large wrapped up squares. She gave Lore one.
"Thank you," he said, genuinely surprised, and then he added, "Just what I always wanted - a brown square!"
Roshana laughed. "Open it..."
Lore ripped off the brown paper and was overwhelmed and touched by what he saw - a very accurate painting of him and Data, naked, touching hands, the background, a starry skyscape, splashed with gentle, but bright colors.
"It's .... it's beautiful..."
Roshana beamed. "I hoped you'd like it."
"Like it? I love it!"
He put the painting down and hugged her.
"I painted another one for your brother. It's the same, but a little different."
"That's the beauty of original work. I'm sure he'll love it. I'll give it to him when I see him again."
"I had so much fun painting them. They just flowed like a river to the sea. The third one's for Seth."
Lore looked at her. "You're so beautiful," he said, "outside and inside."
"So are you," Roshana smiled.
Lore took Roshana to see Seth, who was overwhelmed at the woman standing before her.
Roshana hugged Seth, and presented her with the painting.
"Why, thank you," Seth said, ripping off the paper.
The painting was of a young woman in three different frames. One she was a mermaid under the sea, another a person jumping into a sun-setting sky, and another a phoenix soaring through space.
"These are how I picture, you, Seth," Roshana said, "always so young, despite outside appearances."
Tears filled Seth's eyes. "Thank you, my child, thank you... It's beautiful..."
Roshana hugged her and helped Seth put the painting up in her bedroom. "It makes me feel a lot younger and also realize that youthfulness had nothing to do with one's body - it's in the spirit."
* * *
One afternoon, Lore was visited by Atreyu Noah and Ryan, who had become a couple, and become well known and loved fantasy authors, and they'd only written one novel so far and it had already won awards! Ryan had also set up the first environmental facility on Magratica.
"I'd like to present you with our first novel," Ryan said, "The Dreamer's Garden. It's about a fantasy land, mythical and magical creatures, and their fight to stay alive and protect their home."
"Printed on recycled paper," Ryan added with a smile.
Lore smiled as they handed him the thick novel. Inside they had written, "To Dear Lore, without you this book would not have been possible. Thank you. All our Love, Atreyu Noah, and Ryan." Lore thanked them again, and read the entire book before their eyes. When he had finished, he had tears in his eyes. "It's such a lovely story, so enchanting and beautiful." Lore could tell a lot of the novel was based on their experiences and he was grateful that they wrote it and shared it with him. "I hope you write more prize winning novels."
And they smiled. "We plan to."
Lore felt so grateful that these once thought hopeless children were accomplishing so much and that he had helped them tremendously - and they had helped him tremendously too.
* * *
Many other students had come to visit Lore. Data had come to visit many times. Lore had given him Roshana's painting, which Data instantly fell in love with and absolutely adored, and planned to hang it up in his quarters on the Enterprise - and whether it was luck, or that it was just meant to be, Roshana chose to visit that day. Data was astounded by her maturity and how much she had grown. He thanked her for the painting and told her how much it meant to him.
"That's what your brother said. You two are so much alike, you know."
Lore and Data smiled. They had finally made a true, lasting peace with each other and Data had told him that the good he had done had spread. Others in the universe were impressed with his achievements, namely Starfleet, the Federation and his mother.
"Mother ... Juliana ... she's alive?"
Data told Lore about Juliana, how she was an android now and how she sends her love and her sorrow for what had happened to him. Lore asked Data to tell her that he was sorry for the damage he'd caused, and also that he forgave her and loved her.
"I promise I'll tell her that."
"Thank you." It was an amazing feeling to think someone was dead all this time and find out that they're alive and wishing the best for you. Lore hoped to met his mother again someday. Data had left a subspace communicator with Lore, in case he ever needed help. He used it to call him mother and had a long heartfelt talk with her and was grateful to have finally settled things with his family. He truly felt at peace.
Lore had achieved so much here - friends, love, satisfaction - he'd come to terms with himself and reconciled his differences with his family and discovered an overwhelming sense of self worth as he helped others and put his skills to good use and finally found a place where he really felt he was wanted, needed and that he truly belonged. He had found his true sense of purpose. It had taken until now. His life had been a damn hard struggle with more setbacks, mistakes and wrong judgements that he cared to poke a stick at. He knew where he was now and where we was going.
Being an android, he could live forever. There were so many things he could do and wanted to do - so many possibilities - perhaps he could use his skills to help others in the universe, and there were many things he wanted to experience - but later, in time to come. His purpose now was here.
Perhaps he would leave Magratica when the time came, but not right now. He was happy here. He would think about what he was going to do in the future when the time came. He was looked up to and admired by the Magratican people and well loved. He had been punished and suffered enough in his life and this was his reward. Lore had many lifetimes to live and he was confident now that each would enrich him fully as this one had done, but as for here and now he would live this lifetime and let it take him wherever it would lead him.