Excerpt from the
journal of Gilligan Eggars:
haven't worked on my new article. If my editors weren't still
silenced by the Summit they'd be chewing me out like it was nobody's
business. Lucky for me, I guess.
came home for lunch today. He doesn't often do that, which is
justifiable given the distance from the house to Campus. He came home
to wipe a new cell phone of his. He showed me all of the malware on
it: amateur hackers bribing someone to put their software in, assets
of the US military, assets of the Chinese military, things that were
only identifiable as "not beneficial"... it was shocking. Not
even a soft wipe got rid of it all; some of the Chinese stuff was
hardcoded. He offered to wipe my phone, but I declined. I'm not sure
I even want to know.
was eating an inter-meal snack in the basement Lab when I witnessed a
rather odd back-and-forth. Rex was sitting in a chair, quite
enthralled in whatever he was doing, when his assistant came in with
a bowl of jelly beans. He looked up from his work and said:
beans. I thought you could use some quantized sustenance units to
fine-tune your mood."
took them, and rooted around in the bowl for a moment. "Looks like
you picked out all the most endocrine-active ones. Thanks. Should I
take this to mean you've forgiven me for the Pluto incident?" If
Rex has ever looked hopeful, this was it. It's impossible to actually
assistant was more visibly emotive. I also understand her concerns
more, considering he duped all of us equally. "No, Rex. I will
never forgive you for that. I'll never forgiven you for a few things.
But eventually our ongoing interpersonal growth will make them
while the damage will always be there, never diminishing in absolute
magnitude, it will become asymptotically less relevant to our
relationship?" This prompted a nod from his assistant. He smiled.
"That's good. There are lots of worse alternatives, anyway."
not sure I know what that means. If it means what I think it means,
then his assistant will hold a grudge forever? That doesn't sound
like her. There was a pause of a few moments. When Rex next spoke, I
was mostly done eating.
the way, yesterday was exactly one year from when I started to track
my relative risks of dying. I'd like to present my results. Now, it
may be a little nonsensical because I usually renormalize any
probability with the probability that I'll still be alive tomorrow...
It's a good way of avoiding difficult-to-calculate things like me
being a Boltzmann brain or the universe cascading into a lower state
of entropy so far unheard-of. So the numbers could theoretically be
I don't care. What did you find?"
pulled up a document on his screen. I was too far away to read it,
but I got the gist from the assistant's sputter of disbelief. A few
moments after beginning to read, she pushed herself from the bench on
which she'd leaned and looked at Rex disbelievingly.
Dear, this is silly. How can your number one be 'car accident'? You
deal with energy levels in excess of the rest of civilized humanity!
Daily! You just jumped from a rocket-plane to a nuclear-powered
cruise missile over the Pacific! Ninjas target you pretty much
continuously! You actually did die! Recently! That godawful
monstrosity of a dodecahedron..." She stopped. She'll never bring
up the last point in any serious manner. It must be her way of
I take precautions. Take a look: Here's the effect of my radiation
resistance gear, here's the emergency cutoff system to my
experiments, here's where I factor in the presence of my fantastic
array of belt tools... It's all here. It's not as if I made up these
numbers, or any condition from which they arise. These are
objectively calculated. I'll give you the full workup, and you can
tell me what – precisely – doesn't follow." This is Rex's
closest approximation of loaded words. Where most people have words
with connotations that are clearly couterfactual as their most touchy
trigger, Rex has the immutability of his mathematics. It's a common
theme I've seen among people who take to math in school.
was most interesting, though, was that Rex wasn't obviously winning
the argument. I've seen him talk down crowds and singular madmen
alike, from the smallest detail to the most profound underlying
basis. Rex can do odd things with words, but he wasn't doing it now.
He could have convinced her and me alike, simply by turning on that
thing he does.
assistant looked resigned anyway. She's had more of these arguments
with Rex than I have, and that's saying something. It looked as if
this would simply be another case of her dropping it. That can't be
her eyes went wide and she exclaimed, "Rex, is that poor creature a
looked down at his lab bench and said, "Does this mean you've given
up on disputing my claim?"
change the subject. You have ten seconds to convince me you are not a
this point I got curious, and craned my neck to see what the fuss
was. On the bench, held down with clamps, there was something that
might or might not have been biological. I hadn't noticed it before.
began speaking immediately. "I have caught several birds to test
the oft-quoted but ill-tested wisdom that birds can detect magnetic
fields with the sophistication and natural ease that millions of
years of evolution necessarily brings to animal senses. I do not kill
the birds, and when they are done I improve them as a way of making
up for the experience." He then stopped, contented that he had
proven that he was not a monster. I should keep track of the
incidents in which Rex scares me.
assistant looked as ill as I felt. "Is this because that bird stole
your hat yesterday?"
buried her head in her hands and exhaled, as if frustrated from
talking to a brick wall, stubborn child, or rationalist. After a
moment she looked up again, visibly prepared for the worst, and asked
"Improve them how?"
fauna. They're able to more efficiently digest some of the previously
insoluble detritus on which modern city birds live. I also gave them
immunities they didn't have before. Aren't you going to ask me what I
a moment I thought his assistant would break, snap at him in an
entirely justified rage. But instead she simply put a hand on his arm
and said, "I'm worried about you."
was long gone. His eyes had darted over to a monitor, on which the
City from a quite literally birds-eye view was displayed. Around one
particular area of downtown, there was a throbbing rainbow of color,
obviously localized on the scenery, not the retina of the bird.
Whenever the field of view shifted, the blob would follow the
buildings. "Would you look at this! This is an anomalous reading if
I've ever found one. Let's go investigate."
why would I come with you?"
you want to know what that blob of intense changing magnetic field
covering a large region of downtown is just as much as I do. Also,
you have yet to ride my new motorcycle."
was true. As soon as he called her attention to it, she'd been at war
with herself, her eyes darting between the monitor and her own
clenched fists. No one should have to live that way, and I have no
idea why she sticks with him, but sure as clockwork she shook her
head, sighed, and said, "I'll go get my helmet."
they left, she began to say something like "if you accumulate
things about which I'll never forgive you faster than our own
arrived back late that night. They'd found and neutralized a cult of
disgruntled City Transit bus drivers who were trying to summon some
ancient terror or another. It made quite a story.