Rodney looked confidently up at the board. This was all ridiculously easy, of course. Even though since his science project had revealed his abilities he was in the top class for science. As he explained the answer, his teacher held up his hand. "Whoa, Rodney, slow down, you're losing the rest of us!" he joked.
Science lessons were fun. Dr Goldsmith, Rodney's new teacher, really knew his stuff, and would listen to Rodney's theories when he hung around after class. He hardly ever saw Mr Burns any more. He'd been really worried on his first day back at school after his marathon session with the CIA men, but to his surprise word had spread about his project and his visit from the men in suits. Instead of the usual hostile stares and jabs in the back, he found that the others left him well alone. He heard a whisper or two about bombs in lockers, and grinned to himself. As long as they didn't bother him, he would leave them alone. But he did find that muttering about the atomic number of plutonium or debating with himself the best way to separate the isotopes caused any threatened trouble to melt away fast, and his life felt much more comfortable as a result.
About a couple of weeks later, Rodney was called back to the principal's office. He felt butterflies in his stomach as he entered, but was soon put at ease by the friendly expression on Mr Turner's face. Next to him sat Dr Goldsmith, who looked very pleased with himself.
"Ah, yes, Rodney McKay," the principal greeted him. "I don't know if you're aware, but Dr Goldsmith, who has kindly been helping us out for the end of the semester, normally teaches older students, at Elmwood School. Are you aware of the school?"
Rodney nodded silently. Of course he knew Elmwood School. A private school well known for its selective intake and comprehensive science program. A school he would give anything in the world to attend.
Dr Goldsmith stood up and walked over to him. "Rodney, would you like to come to my school next semester? We offer a scholarship program, and from what I've seen of your ability you would really benefit from attending our school and studying science more seriously."
Rodney just stared open-mouthed.
Perhaps Dr Goldsmith misunderstood his hesitation. "I know it's a boarding school, Rodney, but you don't have to live in. We do have students who attend only daily."
Rodney shook his head. He finally found words to speak. "I'd love to attend Elmwood," he said quietly. He thought of the constant rows at home. "And I'd be very happy to be a boarder."
Rodney stared about him in delight. He could hardly believe he was here. It was like his greatest dream had come true. He was surrounded by the most up-to-date scientific equipment, he had the best teachers in the subject that he could possibly have, and for the first time in his life he was studying amongst others who were capable of working to his standards of knowledge. Well, almost to his standards, he grinned to himself. After all, surely none of them was quite up to his ability level.
Occasionally he thought about the strange dream he'd had. But after finding bruises on his body from the beating he'd had from Lucas and his friends, and a lump on his head, he'd decided that he must have had a concussion, which had led him to go through the day of the science fair without actually remembering any of it. He'd been given a special award for his entry to the science fair, and the greatest irony of all was that it had been Lucas's father, Dr Goldsmith, who had both called the CIA in to investigate him and then managed to get him a place at Elwood School.
Very occasionally he would think about the strange dream he'd had, where he'd been in a strange city and met some nice people; but like any dream, it was fading fast. As was any idea he'd once had of being a concert pianist. After all, he'd now found his future. He was going to be the world's greatest astrophysicist.