These two. Why am I so consistently stuck with these two?
Veronica forced her face into a close-lipped smile and put the two professors’ sandwiches on the table. She opened her mouth to say “Your coffee will be done in a moment.” but found she couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
“Well, were you bored?”
“It’s not a matter of-”
“Yes or no, were you bored? As in, were you not entertained?”
The two didn’t really seem to notice the waitress, or even the food. She left. There were other customers waiting, and the two probably wouldn’t notice whether or not they were warned about their coffee.
“It was a fascinating read and all, but it had nothing to do with the prompt.” rejoined Professor Nielsen.
“So you gave it an ε?” asked Professor Gayle.
“What would you have given it if it was boring and off topic?”
“So you’re not going to incentivize-”
“Writing off-topic essays? No.”
“Students are going to write off topic essays anyway, because your grading system favors an essay with an ε to no essay at all. Therefore, you ought to give a higher grade for an essay that’s a fun but useless diversion than for one that’s not only useless but painful.”
“So you’re saying I should give him a higher grade?” Asked Nielsen incredulously, taking a bite out of her sandwich.
“No, I think you should have him suspended for plagiarism. That essay was mine!” said Gayle with a self-satisfied smirk. The waitress returned, and poured both his coffee and Nielsen’s ” You really shouldn’t reuse Wagner’s prompts, you know, students catch on.”
“What’d you get on it?”
“A γ. I managed to barely pass the class. Never went anywhere near the humanities again.”
“Shame. You’re not a bad writer, you know.”
“Alas!” Gayle threw his hands up in exaggerated fashion” Wagner didn’t know talent when he saw it. He could have discovered me.”
“Lit. professors aren’t really in the business of discovering people.”
“Ah, but they should be. Oh, when did the coffee get here?” said Gayle, sipping the beverage of mysterious origin.
“A while ago, actually. It would be nice if professors were talent agents. What would you do if some kid from the slums sent you some brand new breakthrough in theoretical physics?”
“You kidding? I’d tell him I’d love to praise him, but that would be immodest because I achieved the same results years ago. Then I’d clean up whatever he gave me and submit it for publishing as my own.”
“I’ve been doing experiments far too long, Carla. I will go back to theoretical work by any means necessary. Muahahaha.”
“Maybe work on your cackle. Besides, in the hypothetical, the kid could get you fired for plagiarism.”
“I’m kind of offended you don’t think I’d be exactly the sort of person to keep interesting theoretical results in my back pocket for years.”
“Well, you did just joke about getting out of dull experimental work through plagiarism, so no. I don’t think they’d let you off on that.”
“Point. I guess I’d wait until a planesplit and then hope me and the kid ended up on opposite ends.”
“Computers connect across planes.”
“In theory. In practice, connecting through Yaroi networks is a nightmare. Neighboring planes come up with the same results independently all the time, and not until much later do they realize it.”
“So you’d leave it up to a coin-flip whether you ended up in the same plane as the kid you stole from?”
“Planesplits are not coinflips. They’re specifically designed to break as few social connections as possible. Frequency of social interaction is measured through camera footage and digital records, then pairs of individuals are assigned a closeness score, and with a little linear algebra…”
“You lost me at ‘math’.”
“Long story short, some hypothetical kid in the city slums is not going to have enough in common with me socially to end up in the same plane.”
“So I guess it’s the perfect crime if you don’t count all of the many, many risks.”
“Aren’t you going to ask me how planesplits work in general?”
“No. This hypothetical is far more-”
“You see, when you step into a Checkpoint, you’re not being translated in space. Rather, you’re turning in a fourth dimension. When you reach the second gate, it turns you back, but now you’re in an entirely different, three dimensional plane parallel to the one you started out in.”
“Thank you, Mr. Science Man.” said Nielsen, finishing her sandwich.
“What if I actually showed you how it worked? Took you to a private, uninhabited plane?”
“That would be really cool, actually. Can you actually do that?”
“Yes!” said Gayle, barely able to contain his excitement at his colleague’s mild interest.
“How? I mean, there’s a limited number of planes, the Yaroi can’t just give them to anyone who asks.”
“No, see planes are infinitesimal slices of four dimensional space. They don’t just give them to anyone who asks, it’s true, but that’s more to prevent mischief tomfoolery than anything else. They’ll loan out checkpoints to scientists whose work involves objects in intersecting planes which, as it happens, mine does. The only stipulation is that I don’t go into any inhabited planes.”
“Goddammit lunch is almost over. If I’m late, all my students will leave.” They continued talking to one another while they paid the bill. At least they tipped well.
“Man, it was just starting to get interesting. Hey, spring break is coming up. Hit me up and I’ll show you my Really Cool Science Thing.”
“I think I will. Bye Andrew.”
“Take care Carla.”