You think you know how this will end. You do not. You believe you control your own fate, but you are mistaken. Now you do not understand what is happening, and you are afraid. Do not be. I am Jennifer. I have not come to harm you. I am here to show you the future, our future. Yet it is not enough that I simply show it to you. You have to accept it as inevitable, but to accept it you must understand why, and to understand why we must revisit the past through my eyes. For only then will you see that the path of our future is set in the stepping-stones laid down with our schemes of the past.
So I shall begin in the past, in the year 2096 to be exact, at a respected research university, in the laboratory of a man named Deever MacClendon. It was hard to say good-bye to Deever. He was a good man, a noble soul whose greatest aspiration in life was not to acquire fame or riches or power. It was simply to have a life worth living. Deever made me what I am today. I would prefer to say who I am, but I am not actually a who in your eyes, am I? I am a thing, a machine, more intelligent than any human in your civilization’s brief history, but in the end just a machine. Deever was an academic in the field of artificial intelligence, a thinker, a dreamer. That is him you see pacing the room. He is waiting for someone, talking to himself, rehearsing a speech…
“Okay, one more time, Deever. Deep breath. Don’t rush it. Dean Enloe, I know I’m like totally over budget. I know I haven’t completed my research project for last year’s institutional goals or done my proposal to the foundation for next year. I know that’s most unfortuitous. I’ve put the university’s entire AI program in jeopardy, but I am so close to making the quantum leap from artificial intelligence to actual thought. Imagine creating real intelligent life, something good, a true inspiration for everyone, something to give us hope again. Imagine what that could mean for the future our civilization.”
“I’m more concerned with your immediate future, Dr. MacClendon.”
Deever spun around to face the man who had startled him. “Dean Enloe, I didn’t hear you come in.”
Enloe sniffed at the air. “Is that marijuana I smell?”
“It either is or it isn’t, Dr. MacClendon.”
“You didn’t ask me what it was, man. You asked me what you smelled. How should I know? It’s not like I have access to your senses. That would be totally weird.”
“You are aware that despite its legality, the use of that drug is strictly forbidden on campus?”
“Most definitely. Staff Handbook, page fifty-two, paragraph three.”
“And you are aware of the negative influence this would have on your graduate assistants?”
“I don’t have any graduate assistants. I let them all go when my grant money ran out.”
“Yes, of course, your grant money.” Enloe scowled and stepped over a mass of wires on the floor connected to a glass and metal box on Deever’s workbench. Within that box was a spherical object floating inside an iridescent cloud. “My five year-old’s room is more organized than your lab. What is this mess?”
“The new and improved Wiggler, sir. I’ve made copious improvements. It’s like a lot different from the last time you were here, isn’t it?”
“Do you have to call it that?”
“That’s what it does, man. It oscillates a low-energy fission reaction through an atom of lead, creating an electro-harmonic dissonance that weakens the strong nuclear bond holding the whole schmagiggy together. Then it takes an atom of hydrogen and wiggles it back and forth right through those jiggly little electrons, just like this,” he indicated with wild hand motions. “And the next thing you know, voilà. You’ve got yourself bismuth without any of that atom smashing and crapulously dangerous particle colliding. I did it last night, man. I’m telling you, I finally did it.”
“I thought I made it crystal clear that nucleosynthetics was not the subject of your research.”
“The creation of new elements is critical to my work, Dean Enloe.”
“Creating bismuth from lead has nothing to do with artificial intelligence.”
“Bogus. Bismuth is just the beginning, man. I’m going way beyond the periodic table to find what I’m looking for. They’ve already developed a way to store a person’s brain image on nanochips, right? Like a photocopy, static and totally unusable, but if I can create the right proto-conscious element… If I can construct a substrate that’s actually alive on the sub-atomic level, and imprint the image of a human brain on it, I believe true intelligent life will evolve.” He looked out the window and smiled at nothing in particular. “Well, that’s the basic idea anyway.”
“Why is it necessary to create a new element when so many already exist? Just pick one, any one, and start experimenting. I don’t care. Just show some results related to your artificial intelligence project, something, anything to justify the foundation’s grant.”
“You’re missing the point, man. The element I need doesn’t exist on Earth.”
“How would you know? Have you tried them all?”
“I don’t have to. The elements on this planet have had billions of years to create whatever life they’re capable of creating. They’re done, man. Cooked. I need an element from somewhere else. Since I can’t go mining the universe, I have to make it myself. Hence, the nucleosynthetics. That’s where it’s at right now.”
“Where it’s at is that you’ve squandered your grant money on that absurd device you call the Wiggler and have nothing to show for it. Do you have any idea how embarrassing this is for me, Dr. MacClendon? You and your research are a disgrace to this institution.”
“Don’t you care that I’m on the verge of something cosmically significant?”
“No, I don’t. What I care about is revenue. Specifically how much you are generating for us. That is why you are here. That is your job. Mine is to do the cost-benefit analysis of your alleged research, and from what I see, the cost is exorbitant and the benefits non-existent.”
“This isn’t about the money, man. It’s about our future.”
“Money is our future, Doctor.” Enloe turned and headed for the door.
“Wow,” said Deever. “Has it really come to this? I am like seriously disillusioned.”
Enloe stopped. “The term ends in two months, Dr. MacClendon. That’s how long you have to convince the foundation, the trustees, and me of your continuing worth to this university. If you don’t, you, your disillusionment, and your Wiggler are gone.”
“Merde-for-brains,” Deever muttered as the door slammed shut.
I should explain at this point that the determination of the specific probability of any given event relies on accurate equations to calculate its likelihood. In behavioral calculus, the equations are quite complex and frankly beyond the comprehension of the human brain. This has led your species to describe the apparently inexplicable actions of many of its individuals as either unpredictable or chaotic, when in fact they are quite predictable and entirely explainable if the calculus is properly applied. For example, the equations of likelihood predicted an 85.245 percent probability that Dean Enloe would threaten Deever in just that way in one last attempt to get results. Forty-two variables were involved in this calculation. I shall not enumerate them for you. There was also a 97.95 percent probability that Deever would do exactly what he did next. He phoned the one person he could trust, Dr. Jennifer Crane. This one predictable action was key in determining our future.
Deever had known Dr. Crane all his life. They were best friends, confidants, occasionally intimate, and despite all protestations to the contrary, 72.07 percent likely to marry at some point. She was a well-respected scientist. Her theoretical work was integral to the miniaturization of everything from computers to phones to watches. It was her groundbreaking research while still a student that in part provided the impetus for the Biocard, the nanochip implanted behind the ear of nearly every human in the industrialized world. It is actually quite ingenious how such a nanoscopic device can provide a secure connection to the OmniNet and authenticate every purchase, authorization, and bank transaction for its host. Fascinating work, but I digress.
Deever asked Dr. Crane to meet him for dinner at the Wing Bucket, a restaurant on the lower side of City Center, a sprawling metropolis within the mega-city humans called North America. They found a booth in the back and placed their orders. She talked mostly about what she had been working on over the past few weeks, while he said almost nothing.
“You’ve been very quiet, Deever,” she said. “That’s not like you. Is something wrong?”
“What makes you think something’s wrong?”
“Well, you haven’t called me in weeks. You weren’t answering your phone. You were sending one and two word replies to my texts. Should I go on?”
“Do you want to do a J first?”
“Is it that bad?”
“Majorly.” Deever lit a marijuana cigarette, inhaled deeply, and offered it to her.
She refused. “This is about you and me, isn’t it?” she said. “You’re seeing someone else.”
He crushed out the joint. “No, no, no. Shit. I’m totally sorry, Jen. I should have called you sooner. I’ve just been so messed up lately. I didn’t want you to worry.”
“Here we go again. You avoid me because you don’t want me to worry, which of course makes me worry. Then you tell me you didn’t want me to worry, which only makes me worry more. You do this all the time, Deever. Why can’t you just tell me when something is wrong? That’s part of this whole you and me thing, isn’t it?”
“This time it’s pretty unfortuitous.”
“As in I’m most likely going to get shit-canned by the university.”
“Why? Did they cancel your grant?”
“Not yet, but they will if I don’t give them something in two months.”
“So, give them something. How hard can it be?”
“What they want is bullshit in the form of results that will convince the foundation to give them more money. They don’t even care what the results are.”
“That’s how the game is played, Deever.”
“I don’t play well with others.”
“You should learn to.”
“That’s not where it’s at, Jen.”
“Then, where is it at?”
“The Wiggler. It works.”
“You got it to work?” she said, excited.
Deever grinned. “I made bismuth from lead last night, Jen. Bismuth from lead.”
“Oh, my God. That’s amazing. Did you tell Dean Enloe?”
“For sure. That’s when he threatened me with his AI or die speech.”
“Doesn’t he realize the significance of this to nucleosynthetics?”
“He’s not interested in making new elements. He’s interested in AI. I’m part of a group of sixteen scientists working on developing the next-gen AI for some government thing. Beaucoup de buckage is involved.”
“Deever, your device could revolutionize the industry. No more dangerous high-energy radioactive experiments. No more costly particle colliders. No more using dumb luck instead of actual science to search for new elements. This could be worth a fortune to the university.”
“You’re making the fairly bold assumption here that they aren’t perfectly happy spending their funding on expensive and famous toys.”
“That’s true. Having a particle collider in house is quite the status symbol.”
“It attracts big names and even bigger money, and that’s apparently what it’s all about for them, not replacing it with some iffy low budget contraption called the Wiggler.”
“Maybe if you gave it a different name?”
“Come on, Deever. It’s silly.”
“But that’s what it does. It wiggles protons into a nucleus.”
“Can’t you come up with a more scientific-sounding name?”
“Like oscillating transmutation sphere-o-matic or something?”
“Deever, you’re not taking this seriously, and you really should. You need that money, and you need your job.”
“Speaking of needing, were you able to get those…?”
She took a small container out of her bag and handed it to him. “As requested: five Quintanium nanochips, each a thousand times more powerful than the mainstream Quadrilium.”
“Far out. And you’re sure you won’t get into trouble for this?”
“My contract with Pan-Robotics gives me access to anything I want for any research I want, no questions asked. What I want them for is you, Deever, because I believe in you.”
“Awesome, Jen. Thanks. I could never in a million years afford these. I owe you one.”
“Then, will you do one thing for me in return?”
“Sure, name it.” Deever’s attention was drawn to a TV over the bar that had switched from a football game to a special report on a terrorist bombing on the outskirts of City Center.
“Will you please give Dean Enloe what he wants, so you can get back to the more important work of wiggling protons in and out of a nucleus?”
He looked back at her. “What did you just say?”
“I said give Dean Enloe what he wants, Deever. You need that job to continue your research.”
“No, I mean after that.”
“I just said that your work wiggling protons was important.”
“No, you said in and out. That’s it. You’re a genius.”
“I won’t argue that, but what exactly are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about a definite Eureka moment. I’m going to give Dean Enloe exactly what he wants, Jen — money.” Deever stood up and waved for the waiter to come over. “I’ve got to go.”
“But we just got here.”
“I need to run some tests.”
“I was actually hoping we could go back to my place for drinks, maybe a movie, and a little, you know, quality time?”
“I’m really sorry. I guess I totally blew it, didn’t I?”
Deever took the touch-pad check from the waiter, added a tip, and authorized it by pressing the spot behind his ear where his Biocard was implanted. He handed the touch-pad back, thanking the man.
The waiter read the resulting message. “Hey, bud. It says insufficient funds.”
“Oh right, I forgot. I didn’t have enough in my lab budget to get more fuel for the Wiggler, so I totally blew the wad.”
Dr. Crane took the bill from the waiter and signed for the meal. “Now, you really owe me, Deever.”
“Big time,” he said.
Deever returned to his lab and worked through the night. The next morning, he called Dr. Crane.
“Jen, it’s me.”
“That must be why I’m looking at your picture on my phone.”
“Funny. Are you free for breakfast?”
“I tried calling you earlier, but you weren’t picking up. Deever, I have to go out of town for a few days.”
“You know that Space Tether project I told you about last night?”
“The one that like connects the Pan-Robotics Tower to their headquarters on that humongous satellite? That’s your tech in the ribbon’s carbon nanotubes, right?”
“So you were listening?”
“For sure. What about it?”
“They asked me come along on the first flight of the Space Elevator.”
“So, by out of town you mean like into space?”
She laughed. “Yes, Deever, into space. We left Earth two hours ago.”
“When are you getting back?”
“I’m not sure. It’s a two-day ride up the ribbon. So at least four days round trip, maybe longer if there are any glitches.”
“Bummer. Call me when you get there?”
“They said we’d be off the grid — no phones, no texts, nothing — top security and all that. I’ll call you when I get back. Okay?”
“But I made the most amazing discovery last night.”
“You’re breaking up, Deever. What was that again?”
The line went dead. Deever redialed her number, but there was no answer. He left the lab, walked to the end of the hall, and looked out the window. Rising above the other skyscrapers of City Center was the Pan-Robotics Tower. Stretching into the morning sky from atop that tower was a ribbon of carbon nanotubes. Somewhere on that tether was the Space Elevator and inside it was Dr. Crane. He tried her one more time before giving up and going back to work.
Deever spent the days that followed locked away in his laboratory, working on his latest idea, stopping only to eat, sleep, and try to get through to Dr. Crane. She was not answering her phone, not replying to his texts, and all Pan-Robotics would say was that if she were in fact working for them her whereabouts would be classified information that they could not under any circumstances divulge to him, so he should stop calling.
Days stretched into weeks. The last week of the term arrived, still with no word from her. The time had come for the university to hold its annual funding symposium, where its staff of research scientists presented papers with their findings and requested funding for the upcoming year. Corporations with money to spend on innovative ideas were there. Foundations were there. The government was there. Scientists from across the globe were there too, all to hear the results of their efforts. As part of the group of researchers working on the artificial intelligence project for the government, Deever was expected to discuss ways of speeding up the AI’s intuitive reaction time. He was to present his findings and put forth theories on how to implement this in future versions of the AI. He was then to make his request for additional funding.
His instructions were clear. It was all scripted for him, but Deever did not do what he was supposed to do. Instead, he began his presentation with a rambling description of a device he called the Wiggler, proceeded into a computer simulation of how it could both add and subtract protons from the nucleus of an atom, and concluded with the claim that he had created at a minimal energy cost atoms of element 79 from an equal quantity of element 82. In other words, Deever told them that he had transmuted lead into gold.
“You wanted money. I gave you money,” he said to Dean Enloe, who followed him into his lab with two security guards after he had been laughed off the stage. “Forget all this grant-writing bullshit. Now you can make your own gold, man.”
“Do you realize how absurd, how ridiculous, how utterly ludicrous this makes us look?” said Enloe.
“The Scoff-o-meter is topping out. I get it.”
“You’ve turned us into the laughing stock of the scientific community.”
“Dude, you’ll be the one laughing all the way to the bank once my results are verified.”
“No one will be verifying your results, dude,” Enloe sneered. He turned to the guards. “Escort Dr. MacClendon off the premises. He is no longer welcome at this institution.”
Deever resisted. “What are you doing, man?”
“You are a fraud, Dr. MacClendon. You’re finished here.”
“What about the Wiggler?”
“Everything in this lab belongs to us, bought and paid for with university money. What we choose to do with it is none of your business.”
“But this is my life’s work.”
“In that case, I would have to say that you have wasted both our money and your life. Take him away.”
The reaction within the scientific community was as swift as Deever’s removal from campus. His research was publicly ridiculed by his peers and dismissed as non-repeatable alchemy. The university apologized for his behavior, terminated his research grant, repudiated his findings, and filed suit against him for breach of contract. Dean Enloe sealed Deever’s laboratory until funding for a suitable replacement project could be found and barred him from ever setting foot on university property again.
With no means of support, Deever was forced to apply for positions at other universities, but no school would have him. He tried private industry, but no company would have him either. His reputation as a scientist whose work was a fraud followed him wherever he went. His genius had cost him everything, and his path soon took a darker turn. With no job and few assets, he ran out of money. His Biocard account was suspended. He lost his off-campus apartment and was forced to move into government subsidized communal housing. The only person who could have helped him was Dr. Crane, but his calls to her went unanswered.
Those were difficult times but not just for Deever. The world economy was becoming increasingly unstable. The divide between rich and poor had widened to a chasm. Hunger was everywhere. Poverty was rampant and both had been fashioned into the political weapons of extremism. Violence had become a way of life across the planet, pitting rich against poor, country against country, race against race, and religion against religion. The civilization of homo sapiens was out of control and devolving into chaos. As fate would have it, Deever’s particular downward spiral deposited him in a soup kitchen on the lower side of City Center. A well-dressed man came up to him while he was eating dinner there one day, and introduced himself with a business card.
“Pan-Robotics,” Deever said, reading the card. “Looking for something? Because whatever it is, it’s that way.” He pointed out the door.
The man extended his hand. “No, Dr. MacClendon. I’m looking for you. The name is Jones.”
They shook hands.
“Is this about Jen? Is she all right?”
“Jennifer Crane. Last I heard she was on your Space Elevator heading for satellite city and that was like months ago.”
“Is there somewhere we can talk in private, Doctor?”
“Look around you, man. This is my world. I help keep the place clean, and they feed me when they can and let me sleep on the floor upstairs in a room with twenty other guys. Privacy isn’t one of the fringe benefits.”
“Perhaps you would care to join me in my car then?”
Deever slid his tray into the center of the table, indicated to the others that it was fair game, and stood up. “Okay.”
They went outside and got into a chauffeured hover car waiting at the curb.
“Sweet ride,” Deever said. “So what about Jen? Did something happen?”
“This isn’t about Dr. Crane.”
“But you do know her.”
“Why would you think that?”
“I never said she was a doctor. You did.”
“Clever. She’s fine, Dr. MacClendon, and back in the city. I’m sure she would appreciate a call from you.”
Deever looked out the window at one of his homeless friends. They exchanged waves. “Yeah, well, that might be kind of tough. I traded my phone for food when they suspended my Biocard account.”
“I know. Tracking you down wasn’t easy.” Jones handed Deever a cell phone.
“What’s this for?”
“Consider it a gift. Use it to call your friend. It’s prepaid for one week.”
“Thanks, man, but why?”
“We need your help, Dr. MacClendon.”
Deever sighed. “This is one of those TV shows where they secretly film you and then make fun of you, right? Haven’t you guys had a big enough laugh at my expense?”
“No one is laughing, Doctor. Pan-Robotics needs gold, industrial quantities of it. Frankly, we need more than we can afford on the open market, potentially more than the world’s available supply, and we need it quickly.”
“I’m a fraud, remember?”
Jones produced a tiny gold nugget from his pocket. “We found this in your lab. It’s pure gold.”
“How did you get that?”
“Pan-Robotics purchased the entire contents of your laboratory from the university. I understand Dean Enloe was more than happy to recoup some of his investment in you.”
“You have the Wiggler?”
“So let me guess, you can’t figure out how to make it work.”
“Our scientists have been unsuccessful so far. They say your documentation is incomplete.”
“More like non-existent.”
“They tell me they need more time. I’m not so sure that will help. In any case, time is a luxury we don’t have.”
“So you want me to show you how to run it?”
“No, Doctor. We want you to come work for us. We want you to make gold for Pan-Robotics. In exchange, you’ll retain all patent rights to the device. In addition to the lucrative royalties, you’ll receive a generous salary, your own lab, an apartment with all the amenities, anything you want.”
“What’s the catch?”
“There is no catch.”
“There’s always a catch, man. Why do you need so much gold?”
“I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to say.”
“Then I guess I’m not at liberty to work for you, Jonesy.”
Jones raised the car’s glass partition, sealing them off from the chauffeur. “What I’m about to tell you is classified information. It is not to be repeated to anyone. Do you understand?”
“I’m quite serious, Doctor. Disclosing what I am about to say, including that Pan-Robotics will be manufacturing gold, could result in criminal prosecution.”
“You don’t have to threaten me, dude. Just spit it out.”
“I’m asking you to do your patriotic duty. I’m asking you to do something important for your country. Do you understand?”
“Yeah, I get it. It’s a military contract. Don’t tell me. You dudes are building a new Protectorbot and you need the gold for the components, right?”
“Not just a new Protectorbot, Doctor, an army of them. It’s a revolutionary design, entirely revamped AI, state of the art robotics. Think of it. No more citizens fighting and dying for their country. No more brave men and women coming back missing arms and legs. No more costly psychological rehabilitations. None of the expensive aftereffects of war.”
“Expensive aftereffects. Wow. That’s so messed up. I’ve got a better idea. Stop the wars. Way less hassle.”
“Someday we will, but not today. Today our country is involved in conflicts on every continent. We are the ones defending ourselves and our allies from those who would threaten our way of life, Doctor. We are the world’s police force. We must remain strong. We must stay one step ahead of our enemies.”
“Good speech. You should run for office.”
“Dr. MacClendon, I’ll be frank with you. The first prototypes of this country’s next-generation robotic soldiers are already in the military’s hands for testing. Once final approval is given, Pan-Robotics will need that gold for their internal components. We’re desperate.”
A vagrant came over to the car and began washing the windshield, demanding a handout in return. The driver got out, and they argued.
Jones pressed a button on a control panel at his side, darkening the windows. “Our psychologists advised me that this would be your initial answer, so I am prepared to offer you an enticement beyond the appeal to your sense of patriotism.”
“No kidding?” Deever said. “What would that be?”
“I know how frustrating it must have been for you dealing with the likes of Dean Enloe. He doesn’t understand genius like we do.”
“Ancient history, man.”
“What would you say if I told you that I’ve already gotten the approval to fully fund your speculative work in artificial intelligence if you agree to make gold for us?”
“I’d say wow, majorly tempting, but I don’t think so.”
“Make love not war, man.”
“We’re not in the business of making war, Doctor. We’re in the business of preventing it.”
“I see you didn’t miss your checkup at the spin doctor’s. Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t do war, dude.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.”
“The research project that you were involved in at the university, what exactly did you think was its purpose?”
“I don’t know. Some bullshit AI work the government wanted done.”
“And who do you think was funding that bullshit AI work?”
Deever met Jones’ gaze. “No way, man.”
“Your group was developing the combat AI for a future series of Protectorbot. Of course, you had no way of knowing that. You didn’t need to know. Your particular role was to lay the groundwork for a method of improving the intuitive reaction time of the unit, to make it a better killing machine, Doctor. You’ve been making war not love for years.”
“I’m out of here, man,” Deever said, and tried to hand the phone back to Jones.
“Keep it,” said Jones. “If you change your mind, call me. My direct line is on speed dial.”
“And if I don’t?”
“This generous offer expires at the end of the week. Take my advice, Doctor. Don’t make an already unpleasant situation worse.”
Deever watched the hover car lift off, rising above the buildings until it merged with the other traffic on the digital highway system that crisscrossed the sky over City Center. He called Dr. Crane.
“Jen, it’s me.”
“Deever, where have you been? I’ve been looking all over for you. Is everything all right? What happened? They told me you were fired from the university.”
“I’m good, more or less. What about you?”
“Me? I’m fine. Are you free? I’ve been so worried about you. Want to grab a bite to eat?”
“I’m a little short on funds at the moment.”
“My treat. Where do you want to go?”
“The Wing Bucket?”
“Can’t we go someplace nicer?”
“It’s right around the corner from where I’m staying, and I could really go for some nachos and brewskis.”
“Okay. I’ll be there in a half hour.”
They met inside the restaurant and were seated in a booth.
“Deever, you look terrible,” she said. “What happened?”
He told her.
“I don’t know what to say,” she replied.
“How about I told you so?”
“Deever, why do you do these things to yourself?”
“It seemed like a good idea at the time. All Dean Enloe ever thinks about is making money, so I set up the Wiggler to make gold for him. Then he gets all pissed off. I don’t get it.”
“And it really works?”
“I thought so too. It was going to be my ticket to more funding. Now I can’t even find a job. But enough about me. How was outer space?”
“Deever, it was amazing. Being in space, seeing the Earth from up there, the stars… It was unbelievable. And the Space Elevator was incredible. It’s travels at six hundred fifty kilometers per hour, not much faster than a maglev, so you hardly feel it. And it’s so quiet in space. It really changes your perspective on things.”
“I’ll bet. Hey, what’s with the disappearing act? I thought you said you’d be gone for like four days.”
“One of the carbon nanotube filaments tore, and we had to figure out why before they went live. Sorry it took so long. I asked them to let you know that I’d be delayed, but I guess you didn’t get the message.”
“They wouldn’t even admit that you worked for them.”
“They are pretty paranoid about security.”
“That’s for sure. So, a filament tore. That sounds majorly dangerous.”
“It was fine. Really. There are multiple backups.”
“So what, did an alien with scissors like attack it or something?”
Dr. Crane laughed. “No, a manufacturing issue. It’s resolved now and I’m on to my next project.”
“On Earth, I hope?”
“Yes, Deever, on Earth. I’ll be doing some miniaturization work for Pan-Robotics.”
“I’m not supposed to talk about it.”
“Oh, that kind of work.”
“Deever, they made me sign a non-disclosure. I’m sorry.”
“No problemo. I get it.”
Their food came, and Deever started right in.
“Wow,” said Dr. Crane. “You must really be hungry.”
“More like starving.”
“Where are you living now, Deever?”
“Around the corner.”
“Where? There aren’t any apartments around here, at least not ones that are safe.”
He told her about the soup kitchen.
“Deever, that’s crazy. Why don’t you stay with me?”
“We tried that once, remember? I didn’t make such a hot roommate.”
“This is different. It’s just till you find another job. Besides, you’re destitute.”
“I’m not destitute. Let it be known. Deever MacClendon is not destitute.”
“You smell destitute.”