Peter and I debated it at length and then opted for the latter. The cadet's uniform was dark grey anyway, and Peter would wear a pair of dark Academy overalls of the ilk the maintenance guys wore. Hopefully, we would blend into our surroundings while we broke into the Cybernetics Labs.
Peter arrived on site just before the end of the academic day. He easily merged in with everybody as he made his way to my room on the pretext of needing to fix something. He was late arriving though.
"Where the heck have you been?" I demanded when he finally came.
"Sorry. I got waylaid. I got hijacked by a student and had to fix a tap. Fortunately I'm quite adept at that sort of thing."
We then waited until the sun set and darkness fell. It seemed to take ages. Peter lay dozing on Lizzie's bed, quite unperturbed by what we were about to do. I, meanwhile, paced the floor nervously and kept looking out of the window to check how far night had fallen. Finally though, Peter rose, stretched and said, "Come on then. Let's go breaking and entering."
We walked as casually as we could, on opposite sides of the grounds and met at the side door. It wasn't locked so we slipped inside and proceeded down the corridor, listening and watching furtively all the while.
We came to another door but this one was locked. It only took a matter of seconds for Peter to open it.
"Um, so what is it you did aboard the Persephone?" I asked.
"Chief of Security," he grinned.
The next door was equally easy for him but the third slowed him down. This was the one that would get us into the Cybernetics section, but a little bit of tinkering and the door yielded. We slipped inside and into the dim corridor beyond.
We soon heard voices approaching and I found myself being pushed through a doorway—into the gent's toilets apparently. There was no sanctuary there though. The door to the bathroom opened and two men came in. Peter quickly shoved me into a cubicle, following behind me and shut the door.
As you will know, there's not a lot of room in those places so I had to climb onto the toilet seat, a hand on each wall to maintain my balance, hanging on for dear life as we heard Steven Firth's voice.
"Yes, I admit that in one respect I'm hoping that we lose the Lizzie characteristics entirely."
My heart leapt. We were right!
"Mind you, if we don't, it'll be absolute proof that we've achieved our objective."
"I just don't understand where we went wrong in the first place," replied his companion. "How do you end up with an entertainment android when you've programmed it with science and technology?"
The conversation continued as they washed their hands but I wasn't listening. My feet were starting to slip. I braced the wall harder and prayed. Fortunately, the men finished their ablutions and left the bathroom shortly afterwards. I heaved a sigh and relaxed. It was a mistake. Splosh! My left foot slipped into the bowl.
"Bugger!" I hissed.
Peter turned and looked at me, shaking his head.
"Do yourself a favour and avoid a career in security."
We left the cubicle, lingering in the bathroom while I took my boot off and wrung out my sock. Not that it helped much.
With my boot back on, Peter checked the corridor. The coast was clear so we stepped out. I recognised where I was now from my last visit, but Peter continued to lead the way, scowling at me from time to time as my foot squelched relentlessly.
Having bypassed the security on another two doors, we were finally in the heart of Cybernetics, in Steven Firth's laboratories: a suite of three large rooms. Each was typical of their type, with bits of androids lined up on shelves and in storage units, all looking just a little bit gruesome—especially the heads that were devoid of skin. They looked like horrible butchered creatures. Stupid I know, and I wondered if I was being over sensitive on account of Lizzie.
A horrible thought occurred to me.
"What if she's been partly disassembled?"
Peter looked at me, pained. He didn't want to consider that possibility.
We started in the first lab, at opposite ends of the room, a good twenty metres apart, and began our exploration being careful not to leave anything disturbed. Having cleared the first lab, we moved onto the second. When I heard Peter gasp, I knew he'd found her. I ran over to join him.
Peter had opened a cabinet, one that was rather like the sort you'd find in a morgue, and was staring at a pair of feet that poked out from beneath a white sheet.
"It's her," he whispered, distress riding in his voice.
I looked at the feet. The rest of the body was covered by the sheet.
"How do you know?" I asked, not entirely convinced, but Peter pointed to a little mole on her ankle.
"I'd know that mole anywhere."
It was tiny, so small that unless you got really close to it, you'd miss it. I was beginning to suspect that Peter hadn't been entirely honest with me about the nature of their relationship.
I pushed him aside and moved to the head end and pulled the sheet back.
Pale and lifeless ... it was Lizzy.