Unlikely Singularities – Chapter 20


Lying is The Most Fun a Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off

October 22, 2016

Evie stumbled mid-step when her shoelace snapped. “Podría arrojar agua al mar,” she muttered, stomping off the running path to the nearest bench. It was stupid – she was stupid – thinking that a long run would help solve her problem. Her two year contract with Root Solutions would be up this year, and opening negotiations for a new contract had begun poorly. The company wanted oversight of her genetic research and rights to assign her to other projects. Even a quick skimming of the first draft had convinced her she wasn’t interested in staying with Root. Any negotiations that began with a non-disclosure clause for her own work was not going to lead anywhere she would be happy. Add that to the singularly persistent calls from one of the Root partners requesting her to take part in a privately funded, suspiciously secretive branch of research and Evie was more than ready to jump ship.

While that might have put a crimp in her long-term plans, she was certain she could find new lab space. The loss of income would hurt more; she had privileges at two hospitals in LA and had several regular patients to keep her license up and as part of her research. Things would be tight, she would probably have to dip into her savings to keep up on rent and her medical school loans, but it would be worth it to get away from the change in philosophy at Root.

That had been on Tuesday. On Thursday, she found out her computing time at Cori in Oakland had been preempted. The Institute was well within their rights to do so if a contributing partner or university needed the time, but Evie had been on a wait list for months. She needed that time to crunch down new data on a particular gene sequence she was isolating. The administrators at Cori had been sympathetic, had even given her recommendations for a few other places that might make time for her on short notice.

Fourteen research centers and universities had all said no. Even the ones that had time or space – some that wouldn’t be able to schedule her until 2017 – suddenly became very busy after she left her contact information and research summary. If it wouldn’t be ridiculous, Evie would think she was being blacklisted.

Friday night she had gone off a shift at Los Robles to find a string of text messages and voicemails regarding her childhood home. The local sheriff’s office had caught some kids breaking in. She needed a new window and someone to clean up the mud that was tracked in and the beer spilled on the carpet. The deputy had suggested she get a renter to keep it from happening again. Another call from her grandmother had woken her up that morning and she let it go to voicemail – deciding an avoidance run would be better than calling back Abuela and dealing with the problems that had piled up over the week.

And now her favorite running shoes had broken a lace. “Goddamit,” she swore under her breath, walking carefully so she didn’t lose the shoe altogether. Then she crossed herself – not out of devotion, but long-ingrained habit.

Everything okay?”

Evie looked up to see a gorgeous redhead on the trail. Her running jacket and leggings were the sort that were designed by celebrities and cost more than Evie’s monthly student loans. Her body was slim and toned in a way that spoke not of superficial vanity, but a commitment to physical health. It made Evie supremely conscious of the sweat running down her back and the ragged shorts that she probably should have thrown out years ago.

Oh, excuse me. I just -” she shook her head to clear out the jumble of thoughts. Then she started over with a cool, professional smile. “I’m fine, thank you. I just snapped a shoelace.”

The redhead smiled back. “That stinks. Need any help? I used to wear my shoes so thin I could feel a heavy dew clear through to my socks, so I’m pretty good at tying laces back together.” She took a seat on the bench next to Evie and held out her hand expectantly.

What the hell. Evie toed off her shoe and handed it over. It wasn’t like the woman was going to steal the damn thing. Aside from the fact that she obviously could afford better, Evie could see that they weren’t near the same size.

Thank you. I hate to interrupt such a committed runner, though. Were you just getting started?” Not a single red hair was out of place.

Committed, you have no idea.” The woman grinned and shook her head. “Just finishing up, I think. I run more for stress relief than exercise. I know it’s cliché in California, but I’m more of a yoga and Pilates type.” Evie wasn’t sure she believed that. If this woman doesn’t have a personal trainer then she has the most excellent genes I’ve ever seen. “How about you?”

Oh,” Evie had to pause to rewind the conversation. “No, this is definitely exercise. It was this or give up carbs, so…” The other woman laughed and Evie smiled, feeling a little bit of her tension fade away. “But today is some stress relief too. I shouldn’t curse about something so silly, but it’s been a long week.”

Trust me when I say that I have heard far, far worse for significantly sillier.” She had the shoe completely unlaced and was matching up the frayed edges of the string. “I’m Pepper, by the way.” That name rang a bell, and Evie briefly wondered if she was an actress or celebrity. It seemed that at least half the people she met during the two years she had lived in LA were ‘in the business’. But Evie would be the first to admit she hadn’t see more than two movies since she graduated med school and her rotating shift schedule and tiny entertainment budget made even television a challenge.

Evie,” she replied.

Do you want to talk about it? There’s nothing like spilling your problems to a complete stranger to make you feel better. I once got so close to strangling my former boss I had a complete breakdown during a cut and style. I haven’t been able to show my face at that salon in years.”

Evie laughed again. It sounded like something she could see herself doing. Pushing everything down until it all just exploded out over some hapless hair stylist. “I do genetic research – mostly with computer models. It takes a pretty powerful computer, the kind you have to lease time to use, and I just found out that the place I was scheduled with canceled on me. Out of nowhere.”

Blue eyes met hers, and Evie was struck with a sudden sense of sharpness. For an instant, gone was the easy camaraderie of two runners and she felt like she was being examined. Then it was gone.

Are there other places you can call?” The lace was knotted so finely Evie almost couldn’t see where it had fallen apart. Pepper began re-threading the shoe.

Yeah. But apparently they are all booked up. Which is…ugh.” She rubbed a hand over her face, feeling the sweat drying to her skin and making her itchy. “Like I said, it’s been a long week and now I’m starting to feel a little persecuted. I’m sure I’ll get over it by Monday. The run hasn’t worked, but there is always cheesecake to see me through,” she joked.

You know,” Pepper handed back the shoe and smiled tentatively, “I might know someone who can help. He’s with a local research and development group. My understanding is that they always reserve some super computing space for interesting outside projects. It can’t hurt to check it out, right?” She pulled a slim wallet out of her jacket pocket and withdrew a blindingly white business card.

Evie took it with a blink. “Wow, okay. Thank you. For the shoe, and the help.” She grinned again, “And for listening to my breakdown too, I guess. You’ve saved a stylist out there somewhere. If you ever need a geneticist – well, I’d give you my card, but I don’t have any on me.”

Hopefully we’ll see each other again.” Pepper stood and stretched out her back. “I should get going, but seriously, give him a call.” She pointed to the card and started off at a slow jog, back the way she had come. “I’m sure next week will be better, Evie!”

Evie waved, then stood up, testing out the repaired lace. She flipped the card over in her hand, reading the thick black font with a tingle of awareness.

Carl Geoff

Executive Assistant to the CEO

Stark Industries, Los Angeles

* Podría arrojar agua al mar: Might as well throw water into the sea; i.e. this is pointless

Abuela: Grandma