Ever wonder why Alex didn’t get a job working with computers since
he’s so good with them? We did too. Enjoy!

“It’s not fair,” Alex said, slamming his open palm on the desk.

“I looked at your exams and honestly,” said Carl, his Psychology TA, “you should have gotten a B for the course. What’d you do to piss off Dr. McMahon and get a D?”

Alex stood and began pacing the TA’s small office. Running a hand through his shoulder-length hair, he asked, “Did you look at my friends’ exams, too?

The young man nodded. “Yep. Same story, same verse. Near as I can tell, you all should have gotten Bs, not Ds. Did you try to talk to her about your grades?”

“Yeah. The four of us went in to see her. She looked like she was going to strangle me, right there in her office. Told us to get the hell out of her sight or else. I don’t know what happened. She seemed so nice at the beginning of the semester.”

Carl shrugged. “She’s been weird ever since she started that new hypnotherapy research project of hers. You should have seen her screaming her head off at one of our volunteers. Reduced the poor girl to tears before me and a couple of the other TA’s intervened.”

“Wow. I wonder what caused her to flip out like that. Has she always had anger issues?”

“No,” Carl said, shaking his head. “I’ve been her TA for three years now and I’d never seen her lose her cool like that before. She’s always been the nicest professor in the department. I mean, she’s strict—you know about her policy of not altering grades, no matter what your problem or excuse is.” He looked up and gave Alex a wry smile. “Every semester when she announces that, half the students drop out the next day.”

“Yeah, well, if I don’t keep up my grade point average, I’ll lose my TA position in the computer science department and I need that money for rent.”

Carl shook his head. “There nothing I can do for you, Alex, or for your friends. Sorry.”

“Thanks for the effort anyway. I guess I won’t be seeing you around the psych department.” Alex scowled. “After this, I don’t want to have anything to do with psychology ever again.”

* * *

“Hey, Alex,” his friend John said, poking him in the ribs. “You wouldn’t know anything about how we all got passing grades in Psych 101, would you?”

“Hi, guys. You all passed Psych? I thought Dr. McMahon had it in for us.” Alex tried his best to look innocent.

“Kevin thinks you hacked the school server and changed our D’s into B’s,” said Sean, tilting his chair back onto two legs.

“Why me? We’re all computer science majors and you’re just as good as I am. Maybe Dr. McMahon felt bad about yelling at us and raised our grades herself.”

“Yeah,” Kevin said with a laugh, “like that’d happen. From what I hear, she never changes her mind about anything.”

John shook his head. “I don’t think she changed her mind. I overheard her talking to the head of the Computer Science department. She was asking for their help to figure out who hacked her computer and changed everybody’s grades.”

“Is that what Dr. Cole asked Zoe to do?” Alex asked, horrified. “He said he had an important matter that he needed her to look into.”

Sean nodded. “Yeah, she’s tracing the hack right now. She’s the best white hat hacker I know. I feel sorry for whoever did it.”

A chill race up Alex’s spine. I gotta to get to Zoe and distract her before she finds out that I was the one who changed the grades.

* * *

The computer lab was bustling with activity. The computer stations were all full with students putting finishing touches on their final projects for the semester. Alex found Zoe sitting in the back corner, hunched over her laptop.

“Hey, sexy,” Alex said, rubbing the girl’s shoulders. For a moment, she leaned into his hands, making that purring sound that Alex loved.

Finally she looked around, her eyes focusing on him. “Thanks, sweetheart. I really needed that,” she said with a smile. Then her lips twitched up on one side. “I may have to cancel our lunch date today. Dr. Cole has me working on a big project. Someone hacked into the psych department’s computers and changed everyone’s grades. He’s stuck me with finding out who did it.”

“Gee, that sounds boring. How about you take a break and come have lunch with me? I promise I’ll make it worth your time. I’ll even go to that sappy movie you wanted to see tonight, Best Exotic something or other.”

Grinning, she told him, “Alex, I’ve almost got this figured out. Give me five more minutes and then we can grab lunch.” She pointed a slender finger at him. “But I’m still holding you to taking me to that movie tonight.”

She bent back over her laptop, typing furiously.

Shit, she’s going to figure out it was me, I just know it. Then what do I say? ‘Honey, the teacher had it in for us. She hated Sean, John, Kevin and me, so what else could I do? If she’d graded fairly, we would have gotten B’s instead of D’s anyway. I didn’t want to be obvious, so I changed everyone’s grades.’ She’s going to be livid when she finds out. I’ll get kicked out of school and lose my girlfriend. C’mon, Zoe, stop trying to figure out who hacked the grades. I don’t want to lose you.

Zoe looked up from her computer, meeting Alex’s gaze.

“You’re a TA, Alex. How could you?” Her disappointment and accusation made Alex’s stomach roil. “The teachers trust us. You hacked Dr. McMahon’s grades. Why, Alex? Just so you wouldn’t fail a class?”

“Zoe, sweetie, it’s not like that. I could handle failing a class if I deserved to, but Dr. McMahon—”

“Save it.” The furious look she gave him made Alex cringe. “I don’t want to hear your excuses. You betrayed the school and you betrayed me. I thought you were a good guy, Alex. I guess I was wrong.”

Zoe slammed her laptop closed and stormed toward the door.

“And just so we’re clear,” she said, turning back toward him for a moment, “we won’t be going out tonight or ever again. We’re through. I don’t date cheaters.”

Alex put his head in his hands and sobbed quietly.

* * *

Grabbing a slice of pizza from the tray on the table, Alex asked, “So what happened after I got expelled?”

Sean swallowed and took a drink of his soda. “Well, Dr. McMahon changed everyone’s grades back so we all failed her class. I took it over with a different prof and aced it so at least it didn’t kill my scholarship.”

“I saw Zoe shortly after you left,” Kevin said, shaking his head. “She was still really torn up about what happened. I heard she transferred to UC-San Diego. Said she needed to get away from the area.”

“Speaking of leaving the area,” Sean said, grabbing another slice of pizza. “Why’d you stay in the Bay Area? Why didn’t you go home to your parents?”

“My dad and I aren’t talking these days.” Alex huffed a laugh.  “Besides, Vancouver is too cold and gets too much rain for me. And my step-dad got transferred, so he and my mom are in Germany now. I like traveling, but I don’t want to move to Germany.”

“Well, I’m glad you stayed,” John said. “Even if I won’t be here much longer. I’ve already got a job offer from a small startup in Seattle.” He poked Alex in the ribs. “If you ever get to Seattle, I’ll have to take you around and show you the sights.”

“I just might take you up on that. I’m saving up money from my bike messenger and barista jobs to go to a conspiracy convention in Vancouver,” Alex smiled, “so maybe I could arrange a layover in Seattle so we can hang out.”

John laughed loudly enough that the other diners turned his way.

“You do know that Seattle is as rainy and cold as Vancouver, don’t you? My new boss told me that Seattleites don’t tan, they rust!”

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