"Sorry, why do you deserve credit for this meal again?"
"I'm the one who brought Chinese food to Estveria. After my time in the U.S, I began to realize how far ahead much of the world was in so many ways. So, with my power as the de facto ruler of the country, I started a few restaurant chains."
"So, an entire country has access to unlimited Chinese food twenty-four seven because of a taste you picked up in college?"
"They also get free wi-fi and all the latest apps."
"As frequently happens with you, I'm not sure whether to be scared or impressed."
Based on my research, boyfriends should try to ask questions about various aspects of their partner's lives. "How is work going with you?"
"I brought down one of the big drug cartels, and I have leads on the other two."
Wow. All I did today was work some of the kinks out the that general theory of superconductors. "Are you sure you don't need any sort of protection? A lot of these professional killers can be pretty brutal." I would know.
At this point, Vera's phone rang. "Hello, Vera Rapport." Pause. "Yes, I am." Pause. "Yes, he is." She handed the phone to me. "It's for you."
I picked it up. I could have the phone conversation in my head if necessary, but if possible I'd like to avoid foreign signals going directly into my brain. There's always that slight danger. "Phoenix speaking."
"Alex! Wazzzzaap!" Alex was the name I had went by when I was living in America, during college and for a few years after. Only a few people still called me that. And only one of those people would follow it with 'Wazzzzaap!'
"Justin. What do you want?"
"Came by to drop a visit is all."
"Where are you?"
"In your front yard."
"You got into Estveria, and onto my front yard, without my finding out about it?"
"Okay, I'm sending a robot to let you in, but you'll need to tell me how you snuck into my country undetected."
"It's a dealio, for real-yo."
I looked at Vera. "That was my college roommate Justin King. He's probably the world's leading expert in computer algorithms, and the world's trailing expert in pickup lines."
"Is he the guy who was imprisoned for two million counts of sexual harassment?"
"Yeah. Three hours after the verdict he was on parole and working for the CIA. Two weeks after that he was off the grid."
"And three weeks after that I was on an island in the South Pacific surrounded by adoring women." He looked at Vera for a second. "And speaking of women, why didn't you tell me what this one's packing?"
"I'm starting to see where the sexual harassment suit came from."
"Actually, that was my work with social networking sites."
"He wrote a program that went through every picture of Facebook, and if the person pictured satisfied a certain condition-"
"They would find his phone number on their wall, and it would be reposted every fifteen minutes until they called him."
"Those morons in Silicon valley had to dig through half their site to stop me."
"Sorry," Vera interjected. "Where were you two roommates again? Was it prison or college?"
"Alex was my roomie at Harvard."
"I thought Phoenix went to MIT."
"My college career was ten different aliases at four different institutions getting degrees in five different subjects in three years." I had more college degrees than anyone in the world. "By the way, Justin, why exactly did you come."
"Well, I may have pissed someone off."
"You? Impossible!" Vera wasn't surprised.
"Oh, it wasn't over a woman. See, this guy named Mephistopheles tried to recruit me into-"
"Excuse me," I interrupted. "Vera, it might be better for everyone if you didn't hear what Mephistopheles is up to."
"It might be better for everyone if I did."
Justin licked his lips. "Feisty. I like that." I considered punching him in the face, but decided against it.
"So what exactly was your problem with Mephistopheles?"
"He invited me to join this group of his, called the Illuminati Occultus. Said he had some big project for me."
"And you refused?"
"Have you ever seen a James Bond movie?"
"I've seen all of them."
"Well, have you ever noticed what happens to the guy who makes the superweapon? The guy who helps the main bad guy? He always gets screwed over. There was no way I was going to let Mephistopheles do that to me, so I turned him down."
"Let me get this straight. You pissed off one of the most powerful supervillains on the planet based on intelligence garnered from Sean Connery films, and now you want me to protect you?"
"You make it sound stupider than it actually is. Would you accept an offer to join the Illuminati Occultus?"
He had a point. I needed to consider my options.
I could leave him to the wolves. Mephistopheles might not come after him anyway, and I didn't really want to pick a fight with the new leader of the criminal underworld. At least not at a time of his choosing. Eventually, of course, I would destroy him in my quest to gain absolute power and absolute knowledge.
And how that quest coming along, I asked myself. What projects were in the works to make me master of the world. None. I needed a new master plan. It was possible that Justin's computer skills would be useful in such a plan.
Of course, I couldn't necessarily trust him. In fact, even as I pondered whether to shield him from the might of a supervillain, he was staring at my girlfriend in a most untrustworthy manner.
But, still. He was sort of a friend. And it shouldn't be too difficult to find a way to ensure his loyalty.
"Okay, Justin. You can work for me."
"Work for you?"
"If it becomes publicly known that you are aiding me, it will serve as a demonstration that you are under my protection."
"You could just send the world a post card."
"For me to protect you, you'd probably need to spent most of your time on Estverian soil anyways, if not actually in one of my lairs."
"I could still be freelance."
"Finally, If I'm going to protect you from a supervillain conspirator who can conjure up concussive blasts of darkness, it's the least you can do to help me with my stargazing programs." Until I found a serious evil scheme for him to work on, I could at least have him helping out on one of my more expendable science projects. "And by the way. What you do on you own time is you business, but I don't want any of your sexual garbage on my mainframe."