For work related reasons, and very briefly, I was separated from George Clooney by only a glass wall today — it was like, totally awesome.Â And then!Â Dinner at Momofuku Ssam, which is (a) as overrated as everybody says it is but (b) still delicious. I’m not exactly sure what’s Asian about the place (or if it’s supposed to be at all), but the bread and butter were enormously good, the mushroom salad was a dream, and the skate?Â Divinely textured, but the sweetness of the fish was utterly pulverized by a heavy hand of salt — or maybe that was just me, my dining companion liked it just fine.Â All in all, two out of three thumbs up.
And, for those of you who remember my appalling One Life To Ascend To shenanigans may recall the main characters in this little yarn that popped up today while I was “busy” at work:
“Riolaria’s a myth,” Noreen said, elbow-deep in the guts of a computer cosole.Â She was wearing gloves and three coats and still it was too cold, and not for the first time she hated that her predecessors laziness.Â “A conspiracy theory at best at this point.”
“I don’t know,” Holland said, “there have been art pieces surfacing lately in the black markets — snatched up as quick as they show up — I heard there was a Pollack, a Vermeer.”
Noreen ducked out from beneath the computer and rushed to the space heater, rubbing her aching fingers together to get some blood flow back to the tips.Â Scientists a dozen generations ago had spent a lifetime perfecting the pendulous beauty of quantum computers and then damned all their offspring to a lifetime of trying to work on machinery that had to operate at -373 degrees Kelvin.
“Those could have been looted when the planet was destroyed,” Noreen answered, glancing down at her sensors and pursing her lips.Â It wasn’t optimal, but it was functional, and that was the best she could do with so few resources and so little time.Â “Do you think 20 will hold them?” she asked.
Holland looked down at her screens and nodded.Â “It’s more than enough for their needs–and the systems won’t sustain that much more exposure,” he said, adding, “If the planet was destroyed, there’d be no way for the paintings to still be preserved–they would have been destroyed along with it.”
“Like anybody knows what a real Vermeer looks like anymore,” Noreen scoffed, teeth chattering on the consonants, and scrubber her palms together: her hands were ragged, red, calloused and cut up from the naked edges of metal in the hearts of her computers.Â “Go on–cover it up.Â I think it’s done.”
Holland pulled the heavy cover over the system again, and all the computers died, briefly, rearranging themselves and refreshing to new quantum states before the near-silent whir of them revived, and Noreen watched the monitors start to stream information again.
“Good work,” Holland said, bright, bolting the console shut once more.Â “As usual.”
“Well, obviously,” Noreen murmured, and went into the hall, picked up the telephone and called central command.Â “Tell Commander Zhang his substation is back online,” she told the operator, “and remind him that if his soldiers keep frying my systems from downloading too much holoporn, he’s on his own.”
“I’ll translate that word for word, ma’am,” the sailor on the other end said, faithfully, smiling so hard she could hear it through the phone line.
“Yeah, yeah,Â yeah,” Noreen sighed, and hung up, glancing out the airlock window to see the faint, soft-pink curve of a Benedictine transport out the window, suspented silent and gleaming from reflected starlight in the vast darkness.Â “Oh–Holland, make it snappy, our ride is here.”
The Benedictines ran the only neutral transit in the four galaxies, operating enormous pink-colored pods of varying sizes but similar shapes which were known universally by the less-reserved as giant, gloating suppositories.Â Medicine had long since bypassed the crude business of stuffing something up your backside as a curative but it was deeply revealing of human nature that the word suppository was still in common knowledge and use.
Noreen thought about what a bunch of *idiots* she shared the universe with as she settled into the private ship, curling up in a clamshell seat and watching Holland call up a battered monitor.
“It’s not just a conspiracy theory, you know,” he argued.Â “They’ve found evidence–it could be just out of our reach.”
“That sector of the galaxy was lost like, fifteen years ago, it can’t have survived,” Noreen shot back.Â “And if it did, why did nobody try to establish contact all these years?”
Holland flushed.Â “Well,” he said.
“Oh, no,” Noreen said, cutting him off and waving her hands, laughing already.Â “No way!Â Do not tell me you subscribe to the theory of the lost prince of Riolaria!”
Blushing even more deeply, Holland insisted, “*Historical documents clearly show that–*”
“Let the record show these historical documents are literal gossip rags, like with sparkling font,” Noreen said, grinning like a loon.Â “Holland–you’re hopeless.”
“And you’re mean!” he said, pouting, just as the overhead annoucement murmured, in perfect harmonics, “You are now arriving in Nibbana — you are now arriving at your destination: Nibbana.”
Holland stormed off to do whatever 17-year-old foppish geniuses did, and Noreen was halfway out of her pants and shirt when the comm went off and Ten sighed, loud and staticky and miserable-sounding into her room and said, “Noreen–your fithy protege has just been sighted again in the city–can I assume that means you’re here as well?”
“No,” Noreen said through the cloth of her sweater.Â “It’s all just a hallucination.”
“I gave up recreational drug use when they started selling it over the counter,” Ten bemoaned, and with a deep, annoyed sound, added, “Come down to the meeting room on the command level, please, General Hopper would like to speak with you.”
General Hopper was equal parts fatherly and creepy, the type of guy who probably owned an unmarked transport that was carpeted inside–but likely actually used it to transport bunnies and pianos to their homes and rightful owners.Â The first time Noreen had met him, she’d been torn between telling him he didn’t quite look fierce enough to be a general or tell him off, for the pictures of the massacre on the eastern front that had come through the news–the grim and stark red and gray photographs of bodies in the dust.
“I’ll be there in fifteen,” she said.
“You’ll be here *now*,” Ten informed her and hung up.
As a compromise, Noreen showed up in five minutes, since she was equal parts unenamored with authority and the thought of being left for Vorian scavenger ships on unidentified planets–if she even survived long enough to capture Vorian attention.Â Last week, Helen Troy (the most greviously misnamed field agent in the entire trust, although only one other person had ever gotten the joke), had come home from some backwater wide-eyed, mumbling about cannibal pygmies.
“I’m here,” she said, “I’m even wearing pants!”
“For which we are all deeply, deeply grateful,” Ten said, unmoved from his seat.Â “Dr. Noreen–say hello to General Hopper and Major Helion.”