Avalanche – Snippet 12

Vickie’s tone stayed professional and clinical, something that told Ramona that they were in more trouble than she had initially thought. “Finishing sentences or coming up with words that aren’t your own? Do you think you’ve lost control of your hands and feet? Is Mister Marconi having you do the chicken dance and you can’t help yourself?”

“Chicken dance?” Amusement colored the older man’s indignation.

“Not quite, but sometimes what he’s feeling or saying is more comfortable than what I might have done in the first place, and it’s hard to separate.” Now Ramona felt the twinge of concern paired with apology and a hint of embarrassment. She swallowed hard. “Is that normal, given the situation?”

“Normal, sort of. Good, not really.”

“So, really not good,” Ramona repeated.

“I don’t know,” Marconi mused. “Is this chicken dance something like a poultry polka?”

Ramona groaned.

“Look, here’s my problem.  The Odd Couple needs a lot, and I mean a lot, of memory space.  Something I can’t replicate with the resources at my disposal.  My calculations are it would take a building about the size of Atlanta to hold all the chips.  Whatever the Metisians use for memory storage doesn’t work like anything we have.”  Vickie paused.  “And we don’t have near enough of those memory tiles of theirs free to rebuild something.  And even if we did, that just makes them a target all over again.  I could put them in a human with diminished mental capacity, but that would just mean they would have diminished mental capacity.”

“Is there a point in there?” Ramona snapped.

Vickie snapped right back.  “I’m getting there!  I’m explaining for the benefit of the Brain Trust in case they can think of something!”

“And doing a lovely job, Signorina Victrix,” Marconi added. “Please, continue. I’m sure that Nikola would appreciate hearing more as well.”

“Sorry.”  Ramona could actually visualize Vickie running her hands through her hair, turning it into the spiky mess it was whenever she was frustrated.  “OK, here’s the thing.  I actually know how to make magical storage, which takes no space in the real world, and only needs a non-magical interface to connect with the real world, and I can make that too.  But I have to know the math of how those storage tiles work to replicate them so the Boy’s Club can move in.  Is there any chance there might be a mathematical model or a schematic or something that I can study that might have survived somewhere?  Do you guys put mini-libraries of All The Important Stuff on the ships?  Did you upload stuff to the ECHO computers that only you can unlock?  Can you throw me a bone?”

“The ships do retain duplicates of critical supplies, so you could salvage the materials themselves that are used for the storage devices. With respect to the mathematical model…” Tesla trailed off in thoughtful hum as Mercury stood and began pacing the bunker.

“It is not something that the Metisians would have left to be easily accessed. The theory behind it is not difficult to decode, given that we assisted in the later modifications, but it would take time. Not months, but at least a few days to properly outline given a moderate understanding of mathematics,” Marconi apologized. “This is hardly a child’s course in multivariate calculus, you see.”

“And Vickie’s probably the smartest person in ECHO who can pick this apart and make it work without being distracted,” Ramona reminded them.

“Hold that thought and get ready to open the bunker door for me.  I’m jet-packing over to give the Gruesome Twosome a direct interface from your heads to my computers.  That way they’ll be able to type at me and give me the Child’s Garden Of Interdimensional Math and Physics without having to talk in your heads.”

Mercurye managed a disappointed frown but stationed himself near the door. A few rotations of the wheel and the heavy door slid a few feet to the side. Vickie shrugged off the jetpack and left it near the entrance. Dressed from neck to toes in her trademark black garb, she withdrew a small but armored laptop computer from her bag.

“Gentlemen, let’s get started. This is your first student,” she said, patting the case. “Think of me as your teaching assistant, poking and prodding it to learn everything that you want it to know.”

“Everything?” Tesla sounded both skeptical and impressed, something that rarely happened. “Are you certain?”

“Math and physics don’t take up a lot of storage.  It’s applied math and physics, applied to the real world that is, that does.”  Vickie’s hair was already a mess from the flight over.  Once again, she ran her hands through it, transforming it from “messy” to “Apocalyptic Mohawk.”  “I have a friend coming over from the UK.  He’s to theoretical mathemagic what I am to applied.  Once we’ve got the theory, I can apply it.”  She stepped over to Ramona and sketched some rapid symbols on her forehead.  Ramona did her best not to wince, but she couldn’t stop her skin from responding.

Vickie stepped back.  “Whoa.  That looks like the most death metal tattoos, ever.  OK Signore Marconi, pretend you’re typing.  Don’t think at Ramona.  Just visualize your own hands typing on that keyboard.”

Nearly a minute passed without anything appearing on the screen, but a flurry of numbers, symbols, and abbreviated notes in English and Italian started to fill the empty space. It started to scroll slowly, space opening to allow for diagrams and charts alongside the equations. Ramona tried to watch, but it gave her a headache. The man knew so much about so much, it was dizzying.

“Houston, we have a liftoff.  Bonus, I thought I’d have to go through some trial and error first, I made that shit up flying over.”  Vickie pulled out a second laptop and set it up next to the first, then crooked a finger at Merc.  “Come here, big boy.  And stop pouting, you’ll get to watch.”

Mercurye shuffled obediently over to her, and she sketched the same invisible symbols on his forehead that she had on Ramona’s.  Except….they weren’t invisible, they glowed for just a second or so, before fading.  “Your turn, Nicola.  Visualize yourself typing.  You can see Marconi’s work, so…I dunno, complement it, add to it, repeat it, whatever is most intuitive for you.  Just make sure I get it all, I don’t care how much is duplicated.”

“As you wish, Miss Victrix.” Unlike his counterpart’s struggle to put virtual fingers to keys, Tesla began typing immediately. Where Marconi’s equations and explanations became complex diagrams, his notes were neat and progressed in a series of numbered steps. “Of course, we’ll have to make a few corrections here and there, but you will have everything available to us.”

“Whew,” Vickie sighed, now plastering her hair flat with both hands.  “For once Heisenberg came down on our side.  This is gonna provide two things.  One, it’s gonna give me and Paul the math.  Two, the more Tweedlesmarter and Tweedlesmarter concentrate on this stuff, and interfacing outside your head, the more they’ll separate from you two again.  This’ll buy us time for Habitat for Inhumanity to construct the New Genius Manse.”

“Cool.” Mercurye stretched out in front of Tesla’s laptop, watching the equations like some kids would have watched Saturday morning cartoons. “So now we just wait?”

Ramona felt herself starting to doze off as Vickie settled herself in front of the machine transcribing Marconi’s notes. “Yup. Hurry up and wait.”