Thursday, November 26, 2015

Strange Encounters

Well, it was an interesting day. Chris said that he had discovered that Dalton had visited four Medizi facilities over the past month. Two in North America, two in Europe. "I'll have someone check them out," I said, "but..."
"But what?"
"Well, have you been following the public reaction to all this?"
"Not really," Chris admitted.
"There are people who think Dalton is in the right. A lot of them. Even if Dalton doesn't have the opportunity to synthesize the virus himself, someone else might."
"Maybe," Chris said. "I suspect the people with the capability to do such a thing are probably MADs themselves, or at least disproportionately likely to be pro-MAD."
"It only takes one." Dalton, for instance, was not pro-MAD.

Another cab ride through torrential rain, and I was in the Xcom building. Tom had knocked down a wall, and torn through several layers of floor. Miniature cranes, some operated by men in uniforms, but most working on their own, were lowering bits of machinery into what had once been The Basement. I was told to look for Tom in one of his offices, on Level 12. I rode down. The elevator was a lot slower than I was used to. Tom had probably taken some parts out of the old machine. I got off, and walked into his room.
 "Glad you're here," Tom said. "I need someone to look over some plans."
"That's not why I'm he-"
Tom snapped his fingers, and four different screens began displaying beautiful designs. "So, we should reach Level 44 about 1 AM tomorrow. At that point, we'll need to start getting through bedrock. Now, I'm already using the elevators to get some of the materials down there, but we won't really be able to do anything until we can move much larger machines down there." He gave a rundown of the hundred different parts he was planning to assemble into what he said would be the most sophisticated earth-moving machine ever created.
At this point, I realized something. I had never really worked with a MAD who was smarter than me. I mean, Daniel was better than me at math, but I certainly wouldn't say I was outclassed when the two of us worked together. Dalton only asked me about my own work. I never really got to see him in action. But now, as Tom explained his plans to me, as I watched him improve them in real time, I knew that I was out of my league. Tom was a brilliant engineer, and he had been a brilliant engineer for over a decade. If there was anyone on the planet who could keep up with him, well... that person wasn't me.
"So, that should work right? I'm just worried about cooling. Oh, no of course, I have spools of high-temperature superconductor that can transport heat into some sort of sink. Right?"
Tom paused long enough for me to speak. "Tom, I have to admit I didn't really understand any of that. You should have someone else look over your plans. It should take them at least three hours. I am here to get some papers signed, of all things. It looks like the army needs your written permission before they storm Medizi buildings."
Tom wrote down his name on a few separate sheets. "This seems like an awfully long way to come for some signatures."
"After this, I am going to get to set up a ground-piercing radar system. One of the benefits of always knowing where you are is that you know where to put the various antennae in order to maximize the range without needing to constantly consult a map."
"You know," Tom said, "I have never encountered another MAD with your sense of bearing in time and space. I have met people who can multiply twenty-digit numbers. I have met people who can read a page of information in a second. I've met people who pick up foreign languages like you and I put on clothes."
"To be honest, those abilities seem better to mine. Mine can be replaced by a watch with GPS."
"I just thought it was interesting. It must be cool. I don't really have any mental abilities like that."
I left, chuckling. Poor Tom, with his lack of mental abilities.

I rode the elevator with three soldiers. "Why are we here," one of them asked.
"We're here to help  Mr. Markovitz breach Dalton's base."
"No, I know what we're doing here. My question is why? So Tom Mookovitz's friend wants to kill of all the mooks, and now a gang of mooks are trying to stop him. This is their fight. Why are a bunch of human soldiers getting involved."
"Technically they are human," the third one said.
"Yes. The only difference is in the brain."
"Brain is part of what species you are."
"Actually," I said, "your species is determined by your genome. Nobody has yet discovered a genetic cause for M.A.D.N.E.S.S. MADs are very much human." Yeah. I know. You're right. I was dumb to day that. But you know what? You're a diary. You're made out of paper. You don't get to criticize.
"Who the fuck are you?"
"Shut up, Jim. She's just some secretary."
"The hell she is. I've seen her face before." Recognition dawned. "You're that mook. What's your name? You had a funny name. Murdered a bunch of people with that virus."
Shit. I had thought everyone had forgotten about that. My notoriety had lasted about two days, and it had been years ago. I guess some people just have a knack for faces of people they think are less than human.
"This one's a mook? Hey, what are we supposed to be doing here?" I counted down four seconds, The elevator doors opened.
I moved to step out of the elevator. "Where the hell do you think you're going?"
"Yeah. Fucking mook."
"Excuse me," came a voice from outside the metal chamber. "I think you should let her go." The three professional tough guys made way, as I walked out of the elevator. I looked at my savior. Samuel R. Barton.
"You okay," he asked.
"Yes. And if I wasn't okay, it would not be because of them."
"I've never heard anyone talk like them."
"Really," I asked. Oh, of course. "That's because you're a neurotypical. Nobody ever has any reason to say the words 'fucking mook' around you. Whereas I have heard them so many times they have lost all meaning. I have heard it from policemen, and lawyers, and complete strangers, and people I thought were my friends." Technically, the policeman had called me a 'dirty rotten mook.'
"That's terrible."
"Plenty of aspects of M.A.D.N.E.S.S. are terrible." I stopped in my tracks, and taped a radar probe to a wall.
"What are you doing," Sam asked.
"Daniel is going to use this to try to figure out how Dalton is electronically connected to the outside world."
"It is, isn't it."
I walked over to the location of the next antenna. "Why are you following me?"
Sam looked uncomfortable. "I'm not sure how to say this. I've never really been in this position before. Allegra Complex, I think that you are a very attractive woman, and-"
"You are pretty and funny and smart-"
"And I tried to kill you with a genetically engineered virus that locked onto your DNA."
"Yes, we've had our differences. But-"
"I have a mental disorder that causes me to uncontrollably design dangerous technology."
"I don't consider that a problem."
How could he not consider that a problem?
Sam smiled what he must have thought was a charming smile. "I guess I just want to know. Do you feel the same way about me?"
"I do not."
"Are you sure?"
I realized something. Sam was good-looking. He was strong, but gentle. He was intelligent, at least by neurotypical standards. He could cook, was an excellent poker player, and a good dresser. Ever since kidnapping me, he had gone out of his way to be courteous, even kind. He had risked his life protecting us from Spectrum, and had been willing to provoke three gun-wielding men in order to stop them from bothering me. But, still, he had kidnapped me. He had held me at gunpoint, and tried to sell off both myself and my brother. "No, I do not find you attractive." I said. "I am only partially convinced that you are a decent human being."
Sam took that surprisingly well. "I... I see. I think I should go."
"I concur."
Should I have been more gentle with him? I don't know. I haven't really been active in the dating scene recently. But I expect that in most quarters, kidnapping is still not considered desirable.
I guess what confused me is how Sam could possibly think I would reciprocate his feelings. Was he just used to all women finding him attractive? Did he think that doing nice things for me could somehow make up for the fact that he had kept me locked in a room for several days? If so, he was very, very much mistaken.

I returned to Tom's mansion. I didn't mention my conversation with Sam. I didn't really trust Daniel's romantic judgment, Gabe had never had a girlfriend, and Chris was still basically a stranger. I helped Daniel write a program to sift through data to try to aperture-synthesize a good image of where buried cables might be. That took most of the afternoon. We ordered Chinese takeout. Nobody mentioned that moo-shoo pork was not a very traditional Thanksgiving meal. Then again, we weren't really in the Thanksgiving spirit.
Right now, I'm laying in bed, alternating between thinking about exotic tactics Dalton might use to broadcast the virus genome, and pondering the first guy asking me out in over two years. Neither of those thoughts are very comfortable ones for me.  

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