Friday, February 14, 2014

Evil Love

Several days after Mephistopheles' sudden appearance and even more sudden disappearance, no new information had surfaced. I was lying on the couch thinking about what dark matter could be (my money is on the MACHO hypothesis, the other theories are for wimps). Noetron interrupted my mathematical slumber. "Vera Rapport has arrived, as you had previously scheduled."
I used to really hate being interrupted halfway through a problem, with my brain going at full speed. But my tastes had evolved, to the point where I only hated it a little bit. The main reason was that, courtesy of my brain's supercomputer implants, I could always pick up right where I left off. I finished the equation I was working on, and got up from the couch. "Let her in." I thought back on some of her previous visits. "And I trust her, so there's no reason to have that plasma cannon pointed at her at all times like the last time she came. I had a lot of fun building it, but it can be a bit of a distraction in times like this."
Neurotron was quick to make a snarky comment. Oh, I get it. You like fingering your plasma cannon, but you're too shy to show it to girls.
One day, I thought as I walked to greet Vera, I'm going to run through your programming to try to figure out how a complex computational algorithm came to be making jokes about my 'plasma cannon.' I was only half kidding. I'd been working on the subject of algorithmic humor for some time, and the fact that it emerged spontaneously was fascinating.
"Vera, how are things? Bring down any interesting evil conspiracies lately?" I can tell you from experience that most evil conspiracies are pretty interesting.
"I've been working on this one drug cartel in Mexico. I hate to state the obvious, but some of those drug dealing gangsters are truly evil."
I breathed a sigh of relief. I had done business with a lot of pretty bad people, but I'd never propped up a drug cartel. And I hear that a lot of breakups come from the fact that the boyfriend secretly backed up a drug cartel before the relationship began only for the woman to find out while investigating said cartel.
"If you need any help with data mining or something, I'm always here." Not true. "You know, because I'm secretly a hermit who sits around his house all day waiting for his girlfriend to ask to do some data mining."
I bet you want her to do some data mining, if you know what I mean. Neurotron again.
Stop being such a huge dick.
Don't you mean huge plasma cannon?
I decided not to dignify that with a response, and refocused my attention on Vera. "So," she said. "You had something you wanted to show me."
"Yes. But first, dinner! Something romantic. I don't mean to brag, but I've been studying the culinary arts a lot over the past few weeks. I think once you understand the science of root beer, the rest of food is trivial." Spoken like a true physicist.

Three ruined meals later, I managed to put together some linguini alfredo. Oh, come on, don't act so surprised. I am one of the greatest geniuses on the planet, and I've been making meals for her by hand for months. Is a 25% success rate so hard to believe?
"You know, you don't have to cook by hand."
"Sure I do. It's our thing. What makes us such a wonderful couple. A tradition."
She looked bemused. "You aren't usually the type of person who prioritized tradition over getting robots to do mundane tasks."
I smiled at the thought of Laundromat 3000 and the Foldatron. Two afternoons well spent. "I'm not. That's what makes this so special."
"Well, I'll have you know that the linguini isn't half bad."
Not half bad. I hadn't felt so proud since... well, since half an hour earlier when I came up with a brilliant idea for a neutron star field equation. And like, ten minutes before that when I finished planning out the stock market robot. And an hour earlier when I came up with an ultrasteel aerosol. I'm a proud guy.
"So, Vera. Guess what I did today." People experienced in the art of romance will tell you to always focus on yourself when having a conversation.
"Hmmmm. You don't look burned and I don't smell any weird chemicals, so I'm guessing a day on the computer?"
I love this girl. "Yes. Go on."
"Well, last dinner you wouldn't shut about astronomy."
"That's a little harsh."
"You were trying to explain something to do with stars being deflected as they pass through a galaxy..."
"Yeah. The most massive, slowest moving stars decelerate the most. Think about that for a second. Doesn't that contradict your every instinct?"
"Case in point. I'm going to say you spent a lot of time today thinking about space." The looked thoughtful for a second. "Do you even own a telescope?"
"I do now." I looked at out linguini. She looked finished and I had a posthuman metabolism that gained its energy by fusing hydrogen along the proton-proton chain in to deuterium and helium, so the meal was pretty much over. "Come with me, I want to show you something."

I'd actually spent the day hunkered in my basement on the computer. I wasn't doing anything that merited going to any of the really secret labs. But how romantic is it to take a girl to the basement? Neurotron would never let me hear the end of it. So before Vera came I threw together a shed with some nice surround just so that I could take Vera outside. Turns out Neurotron thinks that's pathetic too.
Vera and I walked outside, under the moon (a full moon, I'd timed things well. The weather had been looking uncooperative, but a few jet engines can really blow away the cloud cover). "Did you ever look at the stars when you were a kid," she asked me.
"No." I looked back upon my childhood for a second. "No. I dreamed of visiting them constantly. I studied their properties, and even made some mathematical models." I was a pretty bright kid. "But just look? Never." I thought some more. "It's probably because I didn't get glasses until my twenties, so the night sky was just a big black blanket. What about you?"
"I looked from time to time. It's a beautiful universe out there."
Awesome. So she did have some interest in astronomy. Thank goodness. Or badness, as the case may be.
I took a look at Vera. She was taller than me, and radiated the kind of confidence that would make her attractive no matter how she looked. Which was unnecessary, since she was also gorgeous, with strong features and (for some weird cosmetic reason) green hair. She was intelligent and funny. She was the closest thing I'd had to true love since... before I became a supervillain.
"And here we are." The shed door opened automatically as we approached.
"In answer to your question: yes I do have a telescope. I placed a small package in space a few days ago. It contained about ten square kilometers of photosensitive fabric, folded into cube two meters on a side. Like high-tech space-origami."
"Or high-tech space-laundry."
"The fabric unfolded itself to form the largest area space telescope in history. I wrote an algorithm to sift through the data, and Neurotron ran it for me. I found a lot of interesting things, but the most interesting one was this."
I gestured toward a wall, and it lit up. I had considered going with a three-dimensional holographic display, but those don't get nearly the same color definition as a really good computer monitor. And believe me, I can make a really good computer monitor. "I made a whole slideshow of all the cool stuff I found, building up to the highlight." I showed her images of quasars, binary star systems, and moons of planets in other solar systems.
"In my opinion, though, the coolest image I got was this." A new image flashed on the screen. "This is Enceladus, a moon of Saturn."
"I think it's already been discovered."
"Yeah, in 1787. William Herschell edged me out be a couple centuries." Jackass. "But a few months ago, something changed in the solar system."
"When you blew up that moon of Mars in order to kill Crucible."
"Yes. In fact, half of the Martian crust is still molten. But I digress. One fragment of the moon shot off at relativistic speeds and hit Enceladus. And, as I discovered earlier today, it penetrated three kilometers deep." That last sentence elicited a joke from Neurotron.
"It gets cooler. Or rather, warmer, because the heat was sufficient to instantly form diamonds along the entire shaft. I contacted the International Astronomical Union, and as of this afternoon, that three-hundred meter tube of diamonds is called Vera-127."
Discovering an underground diamond-filled cave on a moon in the outer parts of the solar system proved to be very good for our relationship. I don't think I'll ever need a fancy restaurant again.

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