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The Alphabet Gang

By Marian Mendez
Page 3 of 6

"Could we be sisters?" Dee Dee had sneaked out of her bed after lights out, and crept up beside Aimee's bed to ask her question.

Aimee thought about it. Beatrice and Cecilia both had curly hair, but Beatrice's hair was brown, matching her eyes that weren't as dark as Aimee's or as light as Dee Dee's. Only she and Dee Dee were the same height. "Yes," she said. "You could be my sister." They could pretend, anyway.

Dee Dee smiled, and Aimee smiled back.

"Let's tell B and C," Dee Dee said.

"Bea and Cee?"

"Yes, and you're A."

Aimee frowned, but Dee Dee was still smiling, and Aimee couldn't help returning it. That was the start of the Alphabet Gang.

Even after she got to know Beatrice and Cecilia better, Aimee still wasn't sure she liked them, but it was nice to have someone to belong to- especially on visiting day. Aimee hated visiting day. All the other children got scrubbed up and on their best behavior, while she and her 'sisters' were given simple games to keep them occupied in the empty dormitory. Dee Dee cried a lot on visiting day, while Beatrice was sullen and Cecilia bored. Aimee pretended she didn't care, but she was always short-tempered on that day.

"Let's play Hide and Seek," Cecilia suggested.

"I don't want to," Aimee answered.

"Why not?" Dee Dee asked. "The puzzle's done."

"I want to finish my two - torial," Aimee said, frowning as she concentrated on her lessons. She liked to use big words, even if she sometimes used them wrong.

"Let me see, Aye," Beatrice said, looking over Aimee's shoulder. She changed the last word of Aimee's answer and the computer went into its end-of-lesson pretty pictures and music reward.

"I wanted to do it," Aimee said, folding her arms across her chest and scowling.

"Well, it's done now," Beatrice said, practically. "Come on, everyone's down in the visiting room. We can do whatever we want."

Aimee tilted her head to one side, thinking. "It's no fun hiding in the dorm." She gave a wicked smile. "Let's go investigate the Head's office."

"Investigate? Like on Space Spy?" Cecilia asked, intrigued. One thing they all shared was a love for the latest adventure vid, starring handsome Guy Starbright in his quest to bring to justice the wicked escapees from the old, bad Federation. Playing Spies would be fun, they all thought.

Only Dee Dee wasn't exactly sure. "We could get in trouble."

"Only if they catch us," Cecilia answered.

Dee Dee hesitated, but when the other three left on their 'mission', she went along. After a few minutes, she was caught up in the excitement. "Nobody's here," she reported, after sneaking around the corner. She could see the office door. "But won't he be inside?" she wondered.

"If he is we can say we're lost," Cecilia said. "Everybody thinks we're stupid just because we're little." She knocked on the door, and said, "Hello?"

No one answered so Cecilia tried the control, but the door stayed shut. Dee Dee kicked at the panel, but it wouldn't move. "We can't get in and I've hurt my toe," she said, sulking.

Beatrice was silent, staring at the door panel. "Last week, I watched a repairman fix a stuck door. He opened this." She pointed to a small metal plate beside the door.

"How?" Aimee asked, running her fingers all around the plate.

"Well, he did something with a long, shiny thing, and it opened."

The other three looked at Beatrice. Beatrice shrugged. "I guess we need a long, shiny thing."

They gathered all the long, shiny things they could find, but nothing worked. The plate stayed shut and so did the door. Finally Dee Dee heard people coming, and they ran back to the dormitory. Panting and giggling, they fell onto the nearest bed together.

"That was fun," Cecilia said, her eyes shining.

"We almost got caught," Dee Dee pointed out.

"I know. That's why it was fun."

Aimee said, "But we didn't get in." The more she thought about it, the more she wanted to get into the office. Maybe the Head didn't look hard enough, maybe their parents had signed that form that said they could get homes. Maybe it was in his office, under a bunch of other forms. She rolled over onto her stomach, and pouted. "I wanted to see."

"See what?" Cecilia asked.

"See our files. Maybe our parents' names are there." She didn't say anything about the form, because she was afraid they'd tell her she was silly.

The other three nodded. Everything about them was in the files, Leona said. She checked them to see who wasn't going to get dessert because they'd broken the rules. But Leona was nice, and mostly she 'forgot' who was bad when it came time for a treat. She was especially nice to the Alphabet Gang. Aimee thought it was because she felt sorry for them.

"I'm sorry I didn't watch the repairman better," Beatrice said.

"If we had the Headmaster's keys, we could have got in," Dee Dee said. When the others looked at her, she grinned. "He has a big ring with all these computer keys on it. Leona borrowed it once to open the supply room to get more art paper."

"But how could we get the keys?" Aimee said.

"I don't know."

Aimee sighed again and all four girls lay on the bed, thinking about the Headmaster's keys.

"I got them!" Dee Dee said. She was laughing, and clapping her hands so that it took Aimee a moment to see the metal ring she held.

"The keys!" Aimee tried to get them, only Dee Dee wouldn't let go.

"Stop it!" Beatrice hissed, looking around to make sure no one was watching. "Aimee!"

Reluctantly, Aimee let go. Dee Dee handed the keys to Beatrice. "He left them in the changing room by the swimming baths. I looked under the door."

"Did anyone see you?" Beatrice asked.

"Nobody ever sees me," Dee Dee complained. "I'm not pretty enough."

"You're lucky," Cecilia told her. "They always pinch my cheeks and pat me on the head."

"Can we go to the office now, Bea?" Aimee asked, hopping from foot to foot in impatience.

"Yes. We better hurry."

The office wasn't a popular spot, as people mostly got called there when they were in trouble, so that corridor was usually empty. It was empty now, which was lucky as it took them several tries to find the right key. The door opened, and they stood just outside, staring in. Sneaking into the Headmaster's office had to be breaking the worst rule of all. They might never get dessert again.

Bea finally stepped forward. She was the biggest and usually wound up leading. She went over to the desk. There were a lot of computer disks and real paper notes piled up on top of it. She picked up the top note, because it was plasticated, like important things you want to keep for a long time. It was full of small print that didn't make sense. She looked around. She didn't know what a file looked like, but she was pretty sure there weren't any lying around. "Aye, you read good. Come and tell me what this says."

Aimee came in, along with the other two. She puzzled over the paper and tried sounding out the words. "I- nit Off Comp?"

A wall panel slid aside, revealing a dark glass screen of a graphic visualizing computer. Some old-fashioned people liked them better than the new Oracle models even though you did have to tell them what to do. Encouraged, Aimee tried the next line. "Sys Line On." The screen brightened and turned blue. "Sub Prog Voc Syn".

" Child Care Facility number 152 on line. How may I serve you?" It was the same computer voice that they used in their tutorials. Aimee smiled. Her little computer was very friendly, but it didn't know much, and it wasn't connected to any other computers. The Headmaster's computer had to be better.

"I want to know who my parents are," Dee Dee said, taking over while Aimee was feeling pleased with herself.

"Insufficient information."

"What's that mean?" Dee Dee asked.

"I think it means it doesn't know you, so how could it know your parents?" Cecilia put in helpfully.

"I'm Dee Dee."

"Insufficient information."

Dee Dee stomped her foot. "What good are you? Me and my friends, we want to know who our parents are!"

"Insufficient information."

"I'm Dee Dee and my friends are Aye, Bea and Cee! Aye, Bea, Cee and Dee!" Dee was getting loud, ignoring Bea's attempts to shush her.

"Code accepted."

The blue screen faded, and was replaced by an image of four babies, all wrapped in white blankets, lying in individual autocradles. The blankets were marked, each with a single letter, A, B, C , and D, as the Headmaster had told them. Fascinated, the girls leaned close to the screen. The image shifted, moving to take in more of the surroundings. The Headmaster came into view. He had more hair, and wasn't as fat, but it was him. He looked upset. "I am making this record in the event I may someday need to prove my innocence in this matter." He ran his hand through his hair. "Under protest, I have accepted these infants into Child Care Facility number 152 on this, the fourth day of the fifth month of the New Republic." He gave a funny smile. "As Avalon herself gave the order, I didn't have much choice. She won't tell me where the children came from, or their parentage. I can only speculate, and I am not that sure of our new government that I care to do that.

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Marian Mendez

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