It was the dusk of a millennium, and the dawn of a new era. Silicon Valley was in the middle of a tech boom, and all the technology of the future was just a few years a way. As long as 'all the technology of the future' was like, a more efficient search algorithm, or a better markup language.
I was living with a woman named Rosa Coñez. She was a budding artist, who was experimenting with plastic sculptures. I was a budding mad scientist who was experimenting with positronium.
You might be surprised that I wouldn't be dating a scientist. Wouldn't a mind such as my own seek intellectual companionship?
Well, maybe. But whenever I'm around a scientist, I make it my business to find out what they're doing, and explain why they're doing it entirely wrong. Often, they bristle at this constructive criticism.
But art was a subject I knew nothing about. I couldn't be a smart-aleck, wise-ass, or brilliant-jerk. I couldn't be patronizing or annoying, and I could understand her work just well enough to be an appreciative audience.
Likewise, she could understand my work well enough to be impressed without feeling jealous.
Also, she was beautiful, funny, intelligent, charming, and in all other ways wonderful. It was a good time in my life.
Unfortunately, it was doomed to end.
I had a computer hooked up to the front door which notified me when Rosa got home. It wasn't really worth having, but it was fun to make. "How was the art show," I called out, looking up from my work on a robotic hand.
"I can't complain. A few buyers, but sculpture isn't that big right now."
Was there a way to change that? To precipitate some realignment of the world's artistic tastes? Yes, but there was no way I could pull it off. I went back to work on the hand. Ring finger was stuck again.
"How are things with you," she asked. "Still trying to get robots to give you the finger?"
"Middle finger's working fine. It's the ring finger that's giving me trouble now. But I've almost got my robotic hand writing." By which I meant that I had found a pen, and was trying to get my hand to hold it.
Rosa came down to my basement laboratory. "Have you been here all day?"
"No trips to Vegas?"
You see, I had a bit of a gambling problem back then. My problem was that I was too good and gambling, and some casino owners were getting angry with me. I had a few million dollars stockpiled away, and Rosa says I wasn't to set foot in Sin City for at least a year.
"I'm sure. Of course, I won't be able to afford that nice cooling system for Mainframe." I was referring to the computer system which would eventually evolve into Combinator, which would be upgraded to create Noetron.
Rosa kissed me on the cheek. "I've never understood how you manage to burn through money like this."
"I'm running a particle accelerator in our basement. The power bills alone are staggering."
"You could always take that job the Estverians are offering you."
"Estveria? I've left that country far behind. Doesn't even have Chinese takeout."
Rosa thought for a moment. "Have I ever introduced you to my cousin Martin?"
"If you did, I was drunk at the time." I never drink.
"I should. He's a huge science fan, just like you." Science fan? Try Scientist. "He's come up with a lot of cool stuff, and runs a company selling advanced technology."
"We've been over this. I'm not selling Mainframe."
"It doesn't have to be that. Martin might be interested in your Ultrasteel project. Or all those transistors you came up with. And what was that superconductoid you made."
"Superconductor, but I see you point. I'd be happy to meet this cousin Martin."
A month later, Rosa, Martin and I were having dinner in some restaurant. I think it was Chinese food.
"So, Martin, did have you heard about Alex's room temperature .... superconductor?"
"Yup," I said to her. To Martin, I added "Cuprate based, not ceramic. Not brittle at all."
"Clever," he said. He didn't look up from his phone. Probably didn't know what I was talking about. "You solve the magnetic flux problem yet?"
Actually, I had just been working on it. "No. Any ideas?"
"Well, here's what I came up with. We write down the breakdown condition..." What followed was forty minutes of two scientists speaking in tongues about every subject under the sun. Through a long and convoluted process, we ended up with Martin saying "Yeah, the device is basically a hand-held functional MRI. If we point it at... Rosa, for instance..."
The machine beeped. Martin frowned for a moment. "Wow," I said. "You made a device that beeps? Neat."
"No, no, it should be working. Hmmm. Rosa, you don't have any outstanding health problems, do you?"
"Not that I know of."
"Hmm, well, Alex, you might want to have a look at this."
Martin's cellphone created a wonderful rendering of Rosa's brain that would bring tears to the eyes of a big-budget special effects artist twenty years in the future. "It looks almost like," I looked at Rosa, "It looks almost like a tumor."
"Should we get her to a hospital?"
"Wait, are you saying I have cancer."
"It doesn't appear malignant."
"Can one of you explain what's going on?"
"Hold on, I read a paper about this sort of thing, let me see it I remember."
"The Japanese research team?"
"No, the Europeans."
"CAN ONE OF YOU EXPLAIN WHAT IS GOING ON?" At this point, everyone in the restaurant was staring.
"Well," Martin said, "you seem to have some sort of growth in you cranium. I think both Alex and I agree we need to get you to a hospital in order to get more information, and then we can work on a cure."
Well, the first half of that actually happened.
Three months later, Rosa was ill. And Martin and I put together didn't have any ideas. Individually, we each had plenty of ideas. But put together, we couldn't agree on anything. "Martin, did you even look at the protein structure I sent you? That drug is going to do less than nothing!"
"No," he said, in a tone he reserved for two-year-olds and fellow scientific geniuses, "it will do significantly more than nothing because there is no way we are going to inject her with those proteins."
"They're prions which only attack cancer cells. I even tested them in five different species of mammal. Success in all cases."
"I wouldn't call a stroke 'success,' would you."
"That was entirely unrelated to the treatment, and you know it."
"Then do another round of tests."
"We don't have time! She's terminally ill."
As you can see, being treated by geniuses can be fine, but being treated by committee is always a recipe for disaster.
She died two months after that conversation.
I had just gotten home from Rosa's funeral. I wasn't even allowed to speak. So I sat there, furious, wondering who to blame. Who was responsible for the death of my love?
Martin deserved his share of the blame, as did I. We should have been able to cure her. I could have cured her, if he hadn't been interfering. But neither of us was truly at fault.
The real guilty party here was ignorance. The real problem was that we should have cured all these diseases centuries ago. The people who truly were at fault were the shaved monkeys who called themselves a sentient species.
It was on that day that I realized that the world needed new management. A leader who would push an advanced scientific agenda. That day, I called the Estverian embassy and told them I was coming home. I also told them that I was willing to accept the position of Minister of Technology, and thanking them for the generous budget they were about to offer me.
And Martin, he also did his best to change the world. He did it under the name Professor Cognis.