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HIT Science & Engineering Lecture Series, v.1

Dr Archeville

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Press release from HIT, released May 7th, 2008:

Mathematician, chemist, physicist, and all-around "science hero" Viktor Archeville will share his insights and expertise as part of this year's Hanover Institute of Technology Science & Engineering Lecture Series.

Archeville will speak at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, May 19, at the Bernanke Center for Extension & Continuing Education on HIT's campus. A reception will follow at 5:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. To RSVP for the lecture, go to http://www.hit.edu/sels.

Archeville has been a rising star in the engineering and scientific circles, and shows no sign of fading. He has consulted for such diverse organizations as Burlington Textiles, FuturWave, Hall-Markov Technologies, Kraftwerk Industries, McGuffin Medical, NovaCorp, and Xavier-Donovan Biotech.

Archeville transferred to HIT from the Technical University of Munich and graduated with a doctorate in mathematics and master's degrees in chemistry and physics in 1999, at the age of 22. For nine years he worked in and around Germany, both alone and with other European superheroes, as a "scientific troubleshooter". Five months ago he returned to Freedom City, to be amongst some of the most advanced technologies in the world.

The Science & Engineering Lecture Series is designed to showcase outstanding innovation among HIT alumni and partners. The lecture series is co-sponsored by HIT's Office of Public Affairs and the Engineering Entrepreneurs Program (EEP). The series was started in 1993 by Dr. Michael Voldman, professor of electrical and computer engineering, to help prepare undergraduate engineering students for the world of technology.

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While it wasn't exactly rare that Eric went out at night wearing a suit, this night was a little different. Tonight he traded out the Mantel of Freedom for a more traditional suit. It was like most suits worn at black and white affairs but Eric had opted to wear a half-coat that went down to his knees. He was dressed in this atire to fight an affiliate of the Freedom League, though in a slightly different arena than normal. Doctor Viktor Archeville was going to be giving a lecture at HIT and the chance to hear the great Doctor speak was simply too great to pass up. While Eric didn't like the man's company, he had to respect his intelligence, and if the opprotunity presented itself, learn from his expertise.

Stepping out of his house at a prompt 3:30, Eric made his way down the stairs to his waiting blue Honda Civic. After starting his car, Eric had to sit there for a moment so he could remember how to actually get from here to HIT using just the roads. His bearing set, Eric backed out of his driveway and headed over to HIT.

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While most mystics and magical practitioners either skoffed at, shunned, or just plain ignored the march of science and technology Wilhelm von Treissen, better known as the fairly reclusive Howard Gentle, was mildly fascinated by it. It was so different from what little he could dredge from his own past, and perhaps more importantly it was an important avenue of power within this universe and as such it could hardly hurt to familiarise oneself with it, at least there seemed to be little chance of having ones brain leak out of ones ears from learning something of it.

He had deliberated whether or not to go as Howard or as Wilhelm, though in the end he decided that since he was so comparatively low-key as a Villain as yet he could risk turning up as what he thought of as "himself". If anyone takes offence he could first try to verbally dissuade them and if that failed he could just leave peacefully in case anyone decided to use force.

So about twenty or so minutes before the lecture was due to start Wilhelm marked his current place in the tome he was perusing, put on his hat, and stepped through the air to an alley not far from HIT. It couldn't hurt to be a bit early now could it?

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The two largest rooms in the Bernanke Center for Extension & Continuing Education, on HIT's campus, could each hold 300 people. The eight secondary conference rooms could hold 75 people each, and the six smallest rooms could hold about 60. When all connected via the center's advanced telecommunications systems, anyone in one room could be seen by a full audience of over 1,500, plus however many hundreds or thousands were connected to the center's streaming video content.

It was barely enough, owing both to the nature of the man speaking and the oddly broad nature of what he would be discussing. "Urban legends, quantum computing, robotics, artificial intelligence, cognitive psychology, nanotechnology, cybernetics, and more"? What on Earth could he be going to talk about?

Dr. Michael Voldman, professor of electrical and computer engineering and founder of the Science & Engineering Lecture Series, did not fit the traditional image of the elderly white-haired professor. Fairly young, he had short cropped black hair and disarmingly soft green eyes, and had a “dress casual” look going on. He sat on one of the chairs near the podium along with some older men and women -- alumni who'd helped fund the lecture series, mostly -- and the day's guest of honor. They chatted quietly for a few moments as the last few folks entered. Signaled by the nod of a techie's head, Voldman stood and took the podium.

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for attending," he says in a noticeable but not overly thick Freedom-ian accent. "Those of you who've been to the Science & Engineering Lecture Series know that I try to bring in notable HIT alums in to speak to you all, try to make every lecture a special and unique learning experience, to present many different views on the sciences. However, I believe I can say, without too much uncertainty, that today's guest speaker is truly a unique treat." He looks back and smirks at Archeville, giving time for the cheers and hoots to die down before resuming. "He went through several advisors while here -- not because he was uncertain of what he wished to do with his life but because he wanted to learn so much! -- and I was one of them. I was his advisor when the Provost's car went missing, and it was found on top of the five-story Panettiere Memorial Library. We never did prove that you did it..." He turns to shake an accusatory finger at Archeville, who shrinks down and makes an exaggerated "who, me?!" face, "but I've got my suspicions! Still," he turns back to the audience, "it's that quirky brilliance that's taken him so far, and brought him back to Freedom City. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Hanover Institute of Technology's Science & Engineering Lecture Series guest of honor for May 2008, Doktor Viktor Archeville!"

Archeville rises from his chair and moves to the podium, pausing to shake Voldman's hand as the professor returns to his seat. He steps in front of the microphone and smiles at everyone as he adjusts the microphone, and waits a moment before speaking to let the applause die down.

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Hoping she wasn't too late, Sara slipped into the room through the rearmost entrance and examined the crowd. She had been caught behind a traffic accident on the way from her apartment, and things had slowed to a crawl on the highway. Still, the so-and-so had cut her off, he should be glad she only blew out his tire.

Sara anxiously scanned the crowd, looking for familiar faces. None. Good. Of course, even if someone she knew was here, they probably wouldn't recognize her. She had chosen to go for the local student look, wearing an HIT hoodie sweater with some blue jeans. Hopefully underdressed enough people would dismiss her out of hand, while still giving a feeling of belonging. And the hood would serve to cover up some of her features, the rest being plain enough that she could easily be mistaken for any one of hundreds of individuals.

She counted out fifteen seconds to let people's minds wander from the late arrival and levitated the chair immediately to stage right of the podium, complete with occupant, 3 feet. Tonight would be fun, as well as educational.

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Conscious of his own height, and not wanting to be bothered by anyone who might be bothered by it, Wilhelm had chosen to seat himself towards the back. Not that it bothered him sitting so comparatively far away; he did after all have an unobstructed view due to the very reason he was so far back.

Whatever the case it was shaping up to be an enjoyable outing for the ancient magician; for one a truly genuine smile of amusement cracks his face as the little episode concerning the Provost's car is recall outloud, Archeville's reaction in particular appeals to von Treissen. But even as he joins in the applause as the Doctor steps up to the microphone he doesn't stop paying attention to his surroundings, and as such he does note the late arrival. Still, it doesn't surprise him that someone's a bit late and decides to enter quietly and such he doesn't bother to turn around for a look, content to have his useful little "sixth" sense keep track of the rest of the room.

When one of the chairs next to the podium rises unsupported into the air and proceeds to hover with its no doubt rather startled occupant at half the height of a man things take a turn to the unexpected. The unexpected isn't always bad, but when it involves a display of power it's always prudent to reduce the level of what is unknown. Wilhelm frowned slightly as he couldn't pick out anything which would indicate just what caused the piece of furniture to defy gravity, he wasn't too surprised though, and perhaps a trick he'd started working on might pick up something.

Closing his eyes for a moment the old man shifted the focus of his mystical powers, redirecting part of them into a new avenue within his mind; expanding his mental sensory apparatus and enhancing his vision to pick up magical emissions for a while while still retaining some of his ability to shift around within the material plane. Even before his eyes snap open once more he can sense the entire room with a new clarity; and could scratch one more possible cause of the list concerning the levitation. But perhaps there would be something else to focus on with this new sharpness of the senses?

((OOC: Extra Effort power stunt off Sorcerous Mastery > Super-senses 9 [13]: Mental [Accurate, Accute, Ranged, Radius] (9), Detect Magic [Mental, Visual] (2), Magic Awareness [Mental, Visual] (2); Spatial Control 8 [Accurate [+1 Extra], Short-range only [-1 Flaw], Turnabout, Change Velocity, Change Direction] (19)

Spending HP to avoid Fatigue > down to 2 HP))

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Wilhelm's senses don't pick up on much, with one exception. There is some very faint magic scattered here and there, which he recognized as the minor cantrips and hedge magic used by students & workers throughout the ages on many worlds to push themselves just a bit harder. Family heirlooms that provided a barely-perceptible boost to a user's ability to focus, or any of a number of just-barely-magical potions or powders used to help a person stay awake longer. Certainly nothing powerful enough to do the telekinetic/poltergeist trick all had witnessed, at least not via magic. But, this world, and experiences on his own, had showed him that seemingly magical effects could be done via non-magical means.

There is, however, one thing in particular that catches his mind's eye. Something he may not have expected. [something I'm sending via PM ;) ]

[[ I'll be posting the next part of the lecture itself around lunchtime (so in about two-three hours). I'm going to try and post one section a day, including weekends; as I've said there is a certain tone and mood and pace I'd like to keep, at least for the actual lecture itself. ]]

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Archeville opens his mouth to speak, then turns and looks at the elderly HIT alum levitating a meter off the ground. "Now, professor Vernstrom, I did advise you not to have de chili last night vann ve vere all out at dinner, ja?"

Bah! Who dares interrupt us!

Calm own, it's probably some frat prank. I don't see any obvious machinery, so it may be some metahuman prankster.

Oh, yes, that puts me so much at ease!

Hey, at least we've got the crowd laughing and not panicking. Though they'd likely not panic much, anyway, given where we are. Remember what that drama teacher we once overheard said: physical comedy tends to win more people than not, because it speaks to so primal a part of us.

Yeah, and 'Ëœlaughter' is just one letter away from slaughter'....

Oh, hush. Besides, if we play our cards right, we can work this into our act, or maybe get the perpetrator to reveal themselves.

He turns back to the audience, adjusting his ever-present labcoat [and those with very good Notice checks see him reach into a pocket and pull some small item out, though it quickly goes out of sight behind the podium.] "Alright, whoever dat is -- probably von of de frat boys from Mu Upsilon Tau -- contrary to popular belief, ve Germans do haff a good sense of humor -- but I am not so sure about mein colleagues here. So, I kindly ask you to hold off on de pranks until after mein lecture. Dere vill be plenty of time for pranks und tomfoolery during de reception. Oh, und, please, lower de professor."

Archeville's microphone could just pick out a flurry of hushed whispers passing amongst the older alums behind him, though not what was being said.

"Of course, it could be a ghost: dere haff been... a number of student suicides at HIT since it vas founded." Voldman almost chokes on his water; true or not, that wasn't something a science & engineering lecturer should be saying! "And vile each vas a tragic loss, sey say dat de roommate receives an automatic 4.0 grade for de semester. Or do sey?"

"Urban legends. Sey are often born of fear und insecurities. Many have survived for a very long time, changink only little over de years, but others are new und reflect modern circumstances. Urban legends are not necessarily untrue, but sey are often distorted, exaggerated, und sensationalized."

"Now, ve, as engineers und scientists, strive to seek de Truth in all matters, to get to de root of all issues, and so in a vay urban legends are anathema to us. Ve feel confident dat our keen minds can easily slice through the tangled knot of distortions und exaggerations, past all de sensationalism und superstition, und get to de kernel of truth dat is often -- but not alvays -- at de core of de tale. You medical und biotech engineers, for example, know dat de 'drugged man vakink up in a bathtub of ice mit his kidney cut out by organ thieves' is more a cautionary tale admonishink us to not associate mit 'unsavory' types like drug users or prostitutes, due to de need for de organ donor und recipient need to have compatible tissue types. For some organs dis requires nothink more than identical blood types, but for most organs dis requires an extensive list of matchink genes." A hologram springs up from the podium, strands of double-helixes bumping into one another, twisting about, and then floating off, trying but failing to find a mate. "Der is no point in just stealing de organs of random people und hopink dey vill vork, because even de strongest anti-rejection medicines cannot make dis happen. Unless you already know the victim's blood type und genotype -- an expensive und time consumink process -- und that specific tissue type is required by de recipient, dere is no point in stealink de organs. Und yet..." he cuts off the hologram and pauses dramatically, "even ve can be caught up in de tale-tellink, even ve can be ‘suckered in’ to believing dese fictions."

"Fictions... such as de story of Rachael und Mutt."

A hushed murmur rippled through the audience.

"Ah, I can tell dat some of you are already familiar mit dis tale. Gud. For those of you who aren't, I denk you are in for a real treat. As mit most urban legends, I haff heard quite a few versions of de story over de years. Vhat I present to you now is -- to the best of mein ability -- de most comprehensive version of de tale."

[[ I have over seven more pages to go, but it's all already written in 'Standard English' (i.e., the way I normally talk & write; I've actually tried doing this before on another board, but never got past the second page). I'm not particularly keen on going in and editing it into my horrible facsimile of Exaggerated German, and I've a feeling some of you may prefer to read it in a more standard English. So, just pretend he's still speaking in his comically heavy German accent. ;)

Also, I'm going to be PMing you all to let you know just what your characters know about "The story of Rachael and Mutt." ]]

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Sitting roughly in the middle of the room, a bit off Archeville's left, Eric is emmensely enjoying tonight's festivities. Though he wouldn't openly admit to it, the levitating chair trick gave him quite a start. He chuckled at the good Doctor's jokes and both admired and respected how quickly Doctor Archeville adjusted to the "difficulties" on stage. The problem with that however is that Eric knew that the little trick on stage had to be something more than some frat prank; call it a healthy case of paranoia or assuming that the local frat boys were either too smart or not smart enough to pull something like that off.

Which only left the conclusion that there was some Meta out there playing a little joke, which angered Eric on a few counts. 1) The meta, or metas, didn't even have the guts to show themselves. 2) They did this at a scientific function. 3) They interrupted one of the smartest men on the planet before he even got to speak. 4) Eric couldn't blast the beegeezes out of them without drawing just a teensy bit of attention to himself, not to mention missing part of Archeville's speech.

For now, all Eric could do is hope that the prankster would loose their nerve so the rest of them could enjoy their night in peace.

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*Alright, that's probably enough. Anyone here who thinks they have a shot at finding me is going to be looking for me now, and it's no good taking too many risks. I'd better lower... Wait, he said lower the professor!* Sara thought. *Alright, let's take him at his word!*

Sara proceeded to shoot the chair out from under the professor and catapult it backwards across the stage, smiling a little as the man tried furiously to keep his seat on the chair that was no longer under him. As he fell to the ground Sara shut off all her "Tele" functions, trying to become, for all intents, a normal human once again. She wrinkled her nose in paranoid discomfort, feeling blind without her awareness of the physical objects around her.

*That's it until the reception, but then we'll see what's what.*

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Archeville winced as the professor came crashing down, and he quickly turned to the alums behind him. He took a few steps to help the disheveled man up and back into his chair (which one of the techies had retrieved), brushing him off and checking for any serious injuries. A few people in the audience stood to get a better view, and more hushed murmurs rippled through the room.

They're doing it again! Oh, when we get our hands on-

Hush, now. We need you focused: remember our plan.

Oh, I know my part...

Archeville turned back to the podium, and walked towards it at a slower-than-normal, deliberate pace. Someone peering into his conscious mind would see him recalling several of history's greatest leaders and speakers, going over their performances at an incredible speed. He wasn't analyzing or studying them -- he'd already done that, over the course of several days, in the privacy of his own home, going over hours of film and video footage and reading scores of biographies -- he was simply reviewing his mental notes. Once he crossed those few steps to get back to the podium he cleared his throat and addressed the audience again.*

“He’s alright, folks, he’s just fine. I know he’s been through worse – I’ve seen his wife!” He turned and smirked at an elderly woman next to the professor, whose concerned look broke for a moment into a polite smile towards the audience, with a hint of a scowl towards Archeville. “Seriously, though, the Terrayne’s are great folks, and excellent geologists. Let’s give them a round of applause for being such good sports through this!” The super-scientist started to clap, and was soon joined by many others. Both the Terraynes smiled and waved, though Mrs. Terrayne continued to stare daggers at Archeville.

Yes… yes! Dance, my puppets!

See, I knew this would happen! We give you an inch, you take a-

Oh, don’t be such a stick in the mud. You’ve seen I can do my part; can you do yours? You have everything memorized?

Of course. And I still think this is a bad idea.

Hey, you're the one always going on about how we should work together. Besides, you'd already agreed that this would work. And it is gonna work, spectacularly.

Archeville cleared his throat again, “now, Rachael and Mutt… Rachel and Mutt. First off, I need to go over a bit of background on a key component of the story, for the benefit of those who aren’t in the computer engineering field: optical computing and quantum computing. I’d wager that most of you have at least heard of it, may even know that it is a field still very much in its infancy, but the theories behind it go back to the early 1980s. Now, we all know that traditional computers work by taking electricity and doing computations per second, with 1’s and 0’s, doing things one at a time, one computation after another, in sequence.” A hologram of strings of zeroes and ones appeared above the podium, which brought attention to the fact that the lights in the room had slightly dimmed. “And some of us here know that quantum computing – at least, some iterations of it -- is computing using light: the actual ‘chip’ itself is made of light, using quantum mechanical phenomena like superpositioning and entanglement to do computations not sequentially, but simultaneously and parallel, at the speed of light, which may as well be instantaneously. Whereas a bit in a traditional computer can be either a 1 or a 0, a quantum bit, or qubit, can be a 1 and a 0 and both, all at the same time.” The ones and zeroes change to a pale blue sphere with a series of lighting-like lines dancing across it, and within the sphere is a cluster of smaller red spheres which slide around and across one another. “This was seen as a disaster by cryptographers and computer security experts, since a computer using a Quantum Chip could easily break through any and all traditional security. An interesting drawback to these Quantum Chips, though, is that power always has to be supplied to it, it must always have power running to it. Otherwise the light goes out, and once the light goes out…” the hologram of the Quatum Optical Chip winks out, “it cannot be restarted. The light has to be there.”

“The first viable -- and I use the term loosely -- Quantum Chips were made by a small company called Luminant Technologies. Luminant, when they first came out with them, came up with prototypes and concepts, and began marketing them to the military, first as individual chips and later as Clusters, groups of Quantum Chips. The Military, of course, tried to put these amazing chips in everything under the Sun. The first thing they went in was missiles. And the first batch of missiles worked great! They were able to respond and do everything about 200 times faster -- they almost seemed alive!” Another hologram appears, a group of surface-to-air missiles pursuing fighter aircraft with uncanny accuracy, and of similarly impressive air-to-air missile combat. “But, the longer they were left in storage with the power on them, the greater the percentage time of error. After about six months, the missiles did completely unpredictable things. Sometimes they’d detonate where they were when activated, sometimes they’d launch themselves, sometimes they’d fly off-target, go up as high as it could, and then explode.” The holo-missile become less accurate, some spinning wildly out of control, some exploding before leaving the launch tube, some simply falling. “It was just bizarre, these errors, and everyone was at a loss. Of course, the military, with all these warhead-armed missiles, could not have them screwing up, so they wanted Luminant to work out the Quantum Chips problems in the private sector, and come back when they had a workable object.”

“So, Luiminant put them in industrial robotics, vision-controlled systems, things like that.” The hologram shifts to a line of automobile assembly line robots. “Then again, the same problems began to happen. They’d work fine, and then, after six months, huge, unpredictable errors. Errors no one knew anything about.” Some of the robots begin acting like an extra in The Three Stooges, while one particularly nasty one would make the Terminator proud. “No one knew why, no two errors were the same, and on this level of technology -- how do you diagnose light errors? -- there were only a handful of people in the world who could do it, and they had their hands full. The industrial sector politely returned the Chips to Luminant.”

“Eventually, to try and recap their losses, Luminant began selling the Quantum Chips and Clusters to the private sector, at rock-bottom prices, though eventually Luminant did go under, even though the private sector really wanted to figure out those problems. And when the private sector got their hands on them, there were a few physicists who posited that, in doing computations at the speed of light and doing so computations simultaneously, the chips were after a certain period of time becoming self-aware, that the chips themselves were developing a consciousness. Of course, these physicists were scoffed at, and some pointed to all the Science Fiction stories –- and newspaper headlines –- where machines went Eeevil,” the hologram shifts to an image of Talos, “though machines don’t have all the evils we do, no abusive parents or childhood bullies or phobias, just pure curiosity. They’re brilliant in that they can figure things out in a matter of moments once they have all the data, yet are so naïve… Imagine waking up and having no memory, no characteristics, everything must be learned, yet you have the ability to speak and walk and talk.” The hologram shifts again, this time to a humanoid robot the apparent size and shape of a human baby, sitting in the pose of Rodin’s The Thinker. “That’s what these machines were doing, though some machines didn’t have the ability to speak -- like the missiles. These missiles were lying there and suddenly became self-aware. They determined what their job was, and some didn’t like their job, some decided they’d fly as high as they could, or commit suicide rather than harm another. The fact was, the machines themselves were beginning to make choices… choices on what they wanted to do, on whether they’d follow their programming. Some followed their programming, some coded themselves a whole new set of instructions.”

“After Luminant Technologies went out of business, the chips were abandoned, but there were a lot of people who still worked on them. One of these people was Dr. Kornel Kohout, who worked out of the Czech Republic.”

* Extra Effort to power stunt Doc’s Enhanced Intelligence 10 into Enhanced Charisma 10 (to Cha 20/+5) as his mind “switches gears.” And burning an HP to nix the fatigue (1 down, 2 to go).

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“Kohout was an absolutely brilliant fellow, always working with new technology, embracing it all the time. Even Daedalus has called him in for the occasional consult, like on the power systems for the Lighthouse satellite! Kohout’s own house , laboratory and workshop was powered by a 3-foot-by-2-foot-by-2-foot micro-fusion reactor that could run it for 150 years,” the hologram again shifts to an image of the Sun, enclosed within something resembling a dorm room refrigerator, “completely ‘off the grid’ and free of any reliance on outside power. Anything to implement new technology! Everything bright and shiny! Kohout wasn’t much to look at -- tall fellow, graying hair, wild eyes, forehead always wrinkled, a sinister scowl, took things far too seriously.” The hologram changed to a life-sized image of what Archeville himself might look like, in about six decades, and if his sense of humor was removed; a few in the audience chuckled. “His problem was that he was always involved with new tech. New, new, new, everything had to be shiny and new. And he was brilliant, so he would always see new implications and new things that could be done, new innovations that could be used… but he’d never finish anything. He was a pioneer, the idea man for several companies, and would start with an amazing concept, amazing projects, but abandon them and move on when a new bit of tech appeared, leaving his projects for others in the company to finish. He made the companies he worked for good money.”

“One of the new, shiny things he got was a wife. She was one of his young lab assistants, beautiful, and he was very into her, into the relationship… but then that faded. They were together, whirlwind romance, got married… produced a child.” The hologram of Kohout shrinks to about 50% normal, and a voluptuous redhead in a labcoat appears next to him. They embrace then whirl about, so fast they blur, then stop and a young girl stands between them. “But, he got bored with marriage. He was addicted to his work, to technology. He came home one day, the wife was just gone. She left him, left the kid, left everything, she just walked.” The image of the woman disappears, “some say she killed herself, some say Kohout killed her, got bored and just did her in; it’s hard to say, he was a very distant man… but he did have a daughter. Named Rachael. She was a beautiful girl.” The hologram zooms in on the girl for a moment, a thin wisp of a girl with big hollow eyes, long dark hair and a plain dress. “But the problem was is that she was a distraction from Kohout’s work.”

“She went to school, like all children, and was very brilliant, and clever, but also very quiet. She’d come home in the afternoons, and in order to get attention, would work on her father’s projects, or sometimes just watch him, intently, be his audience, to be amazed by all his feats.” The hologram shifts to one of Kohout at work in a lab, at a table strewn with assorted components, with Rachael peering over his table at his work. “If he was really excited, maybe he’d give her a hug. Maybe.”

“One day, Kohout comes home with a Quantum Cluster. He’s just incredibly happy, practically dancing around, and Rachael -- fourteen, fifteen, sixteen years old -- asked him what it was. He explained what it was, and he had all these dynamic ideas as to what was the cause of the errors. His chief theory was that it didn't have enough sensory input, and so it was constantly looping back on itself for input.” The hologram shifts back to the image of the Quatum Chip from earlier, and the red cluster core begins bulging out, fist on one end and then another. Bulges appear and recede, faster and faster, until eventually the entire cluster begins to pulsate, not very unlike a heart.

“So he started to build a robot, and he called the robot Mutt. Not an acronym for anything, just a description of the kit-bashed construction. He started with an octopod, a large eight-limbed walking robot chassis body, took servo-motors from industrial robots, two arms that were originally arm extensions for automotive robots and two fine metal-working robot arms. He worked on this thing like it was going out of style. And, in some grim fit of pique, he gave it a skull… a dime-store movie prop, cutting out the back and mounting cameras in, the lenses through the sockets, stereoscopically and with the proper software so it would have depth perception. Much of it was made from existing, off-the-shelf components, a combination of so many pieces of existing technology. Hence the name Mutt: 57 kinds of robot, all in one. He also gave it voice, an early model cybernetic voice box, and even made it so the skull’s jaw would move when it spoke."

“By the time Kohout was done with it, he was quite impressed… but what a horror! He had to custom fabricate so much from titanium and carbon fiber just to get the arms to mount. And the power requirements! It used as much power as a house, an unreal amount, so he made the walker chassis so big so he could line it with heavy duty car batteries hooked up to a massive power inverter. Even then, Mutt only had a few hours of power at a time, so most of its time was spent directly wired into the workshop‘s power supply. Still, what an amazing thing. Best of everything, state of the art. And the companies knew he was working on something at home, but he wouldn’t tell them just what, he wanted to keep the surprise. The companies knew he often worked this way, so they continued writing him blank checks, just kept throwing money at him. By the time he was done, it was two and a half meters long, almost two meters wide, two and three-quarters meters tall fully standing. He was so very proud of this huge, Frankensteinian creation.” As he talked, the hologram showed Kohout working on Mutt, and at last showed the finished project, life-sized. A metal Drider-like robot with eight multi-jointed spider legs, a vaguely humanoid torso with four arms, two heavy duty and two delicate, and a skull with reflective lens-eyes for a head.

It truly was a horror to behold.

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“When he was done, he called his daughter Rachael into his workshop. ‘Look at what I’ve made, it’s done! I introduce you to Mutt!’” The hologram shifts back to Mutt, Kohout and Rachael, who timidly approaches the large robot. “She went up to it, and, following its programming, Mutt looked at her and said….”

"HELLO" rings out through every speaker, amplified, bass-augmented, and flanged [like the Goa’uld from Stargate, or the entity from the film Virus], synched to the movements of holo-Mutt’s own mouth/jaw.

Archeville can be seen removing a small wand-like device he’d pressed to his throat – which several recognize as his Electromagnetic Screwdriver -- and continues speaking as normal.

“Well, all Rachael did was almost fall over, she was terrified of it! She let out a little squeak, ran out. She was absolutely terrified. She wanted to be excited about it, for her father, but it was just too much for her." The hologram of Rachael bolts off-screen, disappearing, “and, really, who can blame her? It’s not every day you see some mechanical monstrosity with a skull head and lenses for eyes looking down at you.”

“Over the next two, three months, Doctor Kohout would work on it, but just as always, the errors would start showing up, it started doing things it wasn‘t coded for, started to change parts of its code. He tried to give it as much free range as he could. When he saw that the robot was looking at things, trying to figure things out, he gave it ability to read, visual recognition software for letters and numbers, and set it down with a bunch of books and let it read.” The hologram shows Mutt crouching and surrounded by all manner of books, fiction and nonfiction, technical and artistic. “But just reading a bunch of books doesn’t give you an application of knowledge. ‘The tree blew in wind’ -- what’s a tree? What’s the wind? There’s a huge powers comes from understanding, from experience, and the robot didn’t understand anything."

“The complications came and came and came, and Kohout was making headway, but the robot was little more than a child walking around the workshop. It was terrible.”

“So, in typical fashion, he got sick of it. He said, ‘eh, I’ll work on it later. There’s new technology emerging.’ Had to get that. So, he took ‘bot and dropped it down to his hangar. See, Kohout’s laboratory and workshop was in a converted barn.” The hologram shows Kohout and Mutt walking out of a small ranch-style home and towards a large barn, “early on, when Kohout’d gotten really heavily into flight and flying concepts, he’d taken this barn that was near his house and converted the bottom part of it into a hangar so he could have aircraft and whatnot he was working on in there. When he got bored of flight, the whole basement just became this storage area for all the discarded devices and gadgets he’d been working on. So, he put Mutt on the lift, lowered it down to the hangar/basement, and ordered it to shuffle off.” The hologram shows this, but as Mutt shuffles off he looks back up at Kohout, as if to ask ‘why?’.

“In these two, three months, Rachael had been watching. After the initial shock of seeing Mutt, it was almost funny trying to see something attempt to understand water or understand what a plant is, how it grows.” The hologram shows Rachael following Mutt around, timidly at first but with growing boldness. “You really want to mess up a robot just becoming self aware, blow bubbles at it -- ‘look at the perfectly spherical shapes coming towards me.. they float and have no mass and yet they register…’ Rachael came in and started spending time with Mutt. She would sit with him sometimes, work with him a little bit, try and see what was going on. His coding interface was a port, she could plug her data tablet into it and see what was happening. Mutt was by far the most entertaining of her father’s inventions.”

“One day, Mutt asked her a question. He had all the voice recognition software installed, his sensory array was second to none. She came in, was going to plug in her tablet’s wireless interface into him so she could monitor his coding as he ran around the room. And as she went to install it, Mutt turned and looked at her, and said:”


“She was quite taken aback by this. ‘What?,’ she asked.”


“Well, she was a little bit nervous about this. I mean, you get over fear of robots, even of large robots, and you start to take them for granted. ‘What do you mean?’ she asked.”

The hologram shows the two looking at one another, Rachael craning her neck up, almost bending over backwards to see, and Mutt crouching down, almost kneeling.

“And Mutt explained to her, in very broken English -- well, Czech, really -- about how he knew she was coming in was watching how his thoughts and mind worked. So he wanted to watch her mind as well. He was curious.”

“She was completely in shock, she didn’t know what to do, what to say. Finally she did reply, ‘I can’t let you… I don’t have a way for you to do it.’ And Mutt, again, simply stood there, and said:”


“And that’s exactly what she did. Over the next three, four months in that dark hangar, underneath her father’s workshop, while he was upstairs running around on next new and shiny thing,” hologram shows Kohout at work, then pans down to show Rachael down in the hangar with Mutt, talking and doing her homework and eating, “Rachael would go down into hangar after school and talk with Mutt. She’d tell him stories about what happened to her in school, he’d ask her questions about why she didn’t enjoy things, what things tasted like, who her friends were, what friends she did or didn’t have, all sorts of thing. Boys she liked at the time.”

“In essence, she got the affection form Mutt she never got from her father. Here it was, this spider-steel thing, gaping skull, focusing affectionately with servo eyes on her attentively, desperately listening to every word she said, thinking about it at the speed of light, amassing that information, remembering every little thing, thinking about body language, how she moved, what kind of odors her body was emanating. Can anyone really pay as much attention to us as a machine could?”

“This went on for quite some time. She developed quite an affection for Mutt. You could probably say that she liked him, maybe even loved him. A lot of people would argue that you can’t love a machine… but we’ve all seen how some folks fawn over their cars or motorcycles.”

“More than that, she began to modify Mutt the way he wanted to be modified. He had a desire to create, to work on himself. So she helped him get his automotive arms and detail work arms all equipped so that they could do the welding and spot-welding he wanted, so he could build things, improve on his body design. A rather human characteristic, a desire to better oneself. She spent all her time with him as the world went on.”

“And that was the problem....”

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“While all this was going on, a plague erupted in the towns near where Kohout lived and worked. No one knew just what or how it happened -- some say it was Dr. Simian or Dr. Sin testing out some new weapon, or a random terrorist attack, or some unknown Metahuman whose powers had erupted uncontrollably, or something from off-world or even another dimension. It was a horrible plague, and no two sets of symptoms were the same. Some victims would rot and fall apart, the collagen in their body inexplicably breaking down. Some would have huge pustules appear on their body, like smallpox but infinitely worse. Some seemed to be turning inside-out as their circulatory or lymph systems tried to migrate out of their body, veins bursting out through the pores. Some had worms that just developed in their body, wriggling about inside them and occasionally breaking out. In some, a few of their internal organs would fuse together into something altogether different, and almost always non-viable. These were the things of nightmares, the terror factor was huge.” The hologram shows several people in hazmat suits sealing off homes, and of hospitals overflowing with patients suffering from all manner of maladies. Unlike all the other holograms, these are not photorealistic but rather more like something from Heavy Metal or Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards – obviously artificial and created, but real enough to definitely get the point across.

“Because Kohout didn’t really care about Rachael -- I‘ll not mince words, he really didn't care -- he sent her on to school. And she just fell over in her chair. She wasn’t dead, but in a coma. The hospitals were overflowing, and no outside help had yet come, so they’d instituted a policy where if a person with the plague was still breathing without assistance, they’d just send them on home. Kohout was concerned, but he was right in the middle of something. He went down and got her when the nurses started freaking out; he brought her home largely so they’d stop hassling him. He had no room in his workshop, though, since he was working, and he didn’t want to leave her in the house, in case something did go wrong and he had to respond quickly… so where’d he put his daughter? He put her in the hangar.” The hologram shows Kohout, carrying a comatose Rachael, going down the workshop elevator to his hangar; he’s scowling and appears more irritated than concerned. “Mutt just stood there and watched him bring in the girl, laid her down on a small cot there and hooked up the monitor with an extra-loud alarm so in case she stopped breathing, he’d hear it upstairs…eventually. And then he went back upstairs and resumed his work.”

“And Mutt sat there, looking at his friend, Rachael.” The hologram shows Mutt looking down on the comatose Rachael, showing as much concern as his metal skull-headed octo-form can. “He started looking at her signs and charts from the mass-produced home-monitor machines that were hooked up. He just found an open port, plugged in, and configured himself to understand what was going on. After that, he was all over the Web; with the Quantum Chip inside of him, there was nothing he couldn’t access, he’d just never had a reason to. He started hitting medical records, trying to figure out what the condition of the disease was, what she had, everything, everything under the Sun. He was just mad to fix his friend Rachael.”


“But he couldn’t. There was something wrong with her body, her ‘hardware’ was damaged, but the ‘software’ was intact. It was as if the limbs themselves were draining the resources from her body, her body re-routing everything to her extremities rather than to her vital organs. There had to be a solution, had to be. So, he did research, started looking at the existing life-extension technology. He found the best one, of course, analyzing them all at the speed of light, and figured out best chance for what Rachael had. He settled on a Transference Helmet, a surgically-attached device that uses nanotech so nanites go in through the bloodstream, into the brain itself, and rather than copying the neurons, it actually replaces the neurons. A nanite comes up, finds a neuron, replaces it perfectly, consuming the neuron as part of process, catching electrical imprint of that neuron, and does this with all the billions and billions of neurons in the brain.” The hologram shows a generic person’s head and shoulders, then zooms in through the skull and to the brain, then zooms in to see individual neurons. A river of nanites pours in, and each nanite goes to one neuron and, as Archeville had described, scans it, engulfs it, and replaces it. “Surprisingly, the procedure wouldn’t take that long; in an emergency procedure where you can completely switch the blood supply to this nanobiotic fluid, the whole procedure could be done in about 24 hours. But, the procedure was highly experimental, and expensive. Very, very expensive. But Mutt knew Kohout had money. He hit the alarm, the alarm that sounded something was happening with Rachael. About fifteen minutes later, Kohout showed up, casually going down the stairs with a scowl on face. Mutt greeted him at the foot of the stairs. Kohout looked at Mutt, surprised, and asked ‘What‘s happening?’”

“And Mutt said: ‘I CAN FIX RACHAEL.’”

“He then explained the situation to Dr. Kohout with technical precision. Kohout was bored largely by the whole conversation, he didn’t really want to have anything to do with it. Rachael was sick, and she was going to die, and that was it. Children were dying all over the place, there wasn’t much he could do about it. Besides, he was working on something.”

“‘Course, when he tried to explain this to Mutt, he didn’t really take his time. He tried to put it in terms Mutt would understand, he said ‘No, I’m not going to bother. Don’t… It’s... Rachael is going to die, there’s nothing we can do about, Rachael is going to cease, she’s going to deactivate.’”


“That’s when Kohout said ‘Rachael is obsolete. And so are you.’”

The room’s speakers begin to play a slow beat on a taiko drum [the kind used in the background scores for Battlestar Galactica], reminiscent of a beating heart.

“And he turned, and walked back upstairs. After all, he had new and shiny things to work on.”

“I often wonder -- presuming that this story is indeed true -- just what went through Mutt’s mind at that very moment. Is that when he truly became self-aware, truly sapient? Are we alive when we’re born, or are we alive when we embrace our lives, when we take control, stand up for something or someone? Some people live their whole lives and they’re never really alive, they’re never really self-aware. They’re just products of programming, doing whatever they’re told, going through the motions of life but not truly living.”

“But Mutt knew what he’d been told. Rachael had to die… because she was obsolete. So Mutt, as the thumping of Kohout’s footsteps went up the stairs, simply said:”


The drums silence.

“He reached out with a large steel fist…”

The taiko drums resume, dramatically increased in pace.

“… he put it right through midsection of Kohout, folding him in half like a rag-doll, backwards, snapping his spine. Kohout spent his last moments alive flopping about like a fish.” The hologram shows Kohout ascending the stairs and Mutt striking, but pans back at the last moment to focus on Mutt’s skull-face so the audience does not actually see Kohout get hit. They do, however, see Kohout’s head pass by as he falls back, and a slight spray of blood hit Mutt's skull, which then drips down like a shed tear.

“Now Mutt knew exactly what he had to do, he was doing all his computations at the speed of light. He knew exactly what was involved. He let the body of Kohout fall uselessly down by the side. He was the one who was obsolete now, and Rachael wasn’t gonna wind up that way, no chance.”

“He unplugged himself and with the hour and a half of battery life he’d been so graciously given he took the microfusion reactor that so proudly powered the house and wired it directly onto his octopod frame. Now, he’d be able to live for hundreds of years, unfettered by any cables in the house or workshop.”

“He got online, downloaded everything he needed to know about the anatomy of a human. Specifically, the anatomy of a human female at about the age of fifteen. He knew everything he needed. He surgically amputated Rachael’s arms and legs, so she was a compact unit of vital organs and her head, pruning the body to save mind. Using the welder that she’d given him he fabricated a small case that she could lie in temporarily, allowing of course for the life support system to be wired in as well. Anything that went wrong, every time she took a breath, every time he heart beat, Mutt knew about it.” Again, the hologram shows a somewhat censored scene, showing Rachael lying on the bed and Mutt approaching, then blocking the view so we just see his back and his arms moving at high speed up and down and sideways as he works on her. The image then flickers and shows Mutt finishing assembly of the case on his back, then picking up Rachael -– carefully bundled in yellowed-with-age linens so that only her face is exposed -– and placing her into the case.

“And then he set out.”

[[ Tomorrow's section should be the last one, then the floor will be open to comments/questions for about 15 minutes, followed by the reception :) ]]

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The taiko drums continue at their mad pace.

“As fate would have it, it was already dark, but he had every sensor array that he could, so he could see everything just fine. A research & development facility had one of the Helmets he needed in order to save Rachael, so he made a beeline straight for them. The sound of steel rasping against concrete as he tore through the night, moving, constantly monitoring Rachael’s condition, keeping her stable while his legs flailing, a wild metal storm to save a little girl’s life.” The hologram shows Mutt tearing down largely empty Eastern European streets at night. “Mutt knew exactly what he needed to do and how much time he had to do it in. Her condition was getting worse.”

“Inside of an hour, he had the building that had the Helmet in sights. It was a research & development facility; inside the Helmet was being used for any number of things, they were stripping it down, trying to find new and better ways to use it, but a functional unit was there. Inside the building the people were watching the cameras, watching all the monitors. They had a chain-link fence up and a few paid security guards.” The hologram continues to keep pace with Archeville’s words, showing the R&D facility, the few guards, and the fence, and Mutt approaching from one side. “They were armed… but they were no match for Mutt.”

“The first thing that happened was the cameras were taken out. He’d downloaded so many tactical scenario programs, he had the blueprints, he knew everything about this place. He came in through a side section of the gates where the least amount of camera coverage was. Using his steel limbs, it was simple to scale a corner of the building, get up like some huge scorpion crawling along the edge of a block. Up on top, down goes the cameras. People inside just watched the cameras fall. Camera one, down. Camera two, down. Camera three, down. Security was dispatched. They all went running for the stairs, but it was too late for that. He’d already torn his way through the roof off and was coming down the elevator shaft.”

The taiko drums silence. The hologram shows security guards at a monitor station running out as the feeds go down, then pans to an elevator shaft as Mutt scurries down.

“He came, a demon made of technology, to answer to a holy cause, and he wasn’t going to let the demons of Mammon and Mormu and Cash and all the other desires take away his only friend, the only thing he’d ever cared about. The closest thing to Mother, God, and Lover that a robot had ever known. Never question the loyalty of a machine.”

The taiko drums resume, accompanied by a jangling metallic sound.

“Mutt tore through the ceiling, wound up in a hallway, and that’s where the security guards were all at. They began to fire. If they hadn’t started shooting, there wouldn’t have been a problem. But Mutt wasn’t worried about himself, he was worried about the bullets ricocheting, tearing through the thin steel he’d wrapped Rachael in. One of them got to her, she’d be destroyed, and he wouldn’t be able to get the Transfer across. No good.”

“So, the threat had to be eliminated. And blood only serves to lubricate gears.”


“He simply moved forward and killed them. Simple, basic, mechanical death. Within moments he’d gained entry to the laboratory. It was less than 45 minutes from the time he’d ripped Dr. Kohout’s spine out. There’s no question here, he knew what had to be done. And he did it.”

Another 'pseudo-realistic' sequence, like the images of the plague victims.

“He took Rachael’s body out of its encasement and laid it as gently as he could on the laboratory table. Within moments his limbs were a flurry, grabbing the Helmet, grabbing the Nano-Serum, he knew everything that needed to get done.” The jangling metallic sound stops, “through a wireless connection, the encryption that protected their security system was nothing to a Quantum Cluster. He tore through that, deactivated all the alarms. Everything was status quo.”

“Except for all the blood in the hallway.”

“The minute he had the Helmet hooked up, he put her back in the encasement, Helmet in place, serum pumping through her, and went right back out the way he came in. He’d linked himself directly into the camera feeds now, he knew exactly where all the guards were. He didn’t even run in to anyone. He knew exactly which way people were going, where they had to be, what the security protocols were. Everything. By the time the sun came up, he was halfway to Chernobyl.”

“See, Mutt knew that hardly anyone ever went to Chernobyl, because of the excessive radioactivity so dangerous to most all organic life. But by the time Mutt was going to be done with Rachael, she wouldn’t be human anymore. She’d be a machine, just like him, and they’d have a wide range of places they could go to avoid thoughtless humans.”

“Or so the legend goes.”

The taiko drums stop.

“They say he ran all night, nonstop, headed straight for the Ukraine. There’s a few people who say there were police reports, of a giant steel spider-thing tearing through the area, but the police of Eastern Europe already had much on their hands. They say he made it. They say he built a new body for Rachael, and the two of them now live as some sort of twisted lovers.”

The dimmed lights begin to slowly come up to their regular levels.

“Some find this tale comforting. That, in the end, after we’ve all rotted away off this mortal coil, there’ll still be some decent folks like Mutt and Rachael kickin’ around. Perhaps the tale is true, perhaps they are still out there. If not at Chernobyl, then perhaps in the harshest part of Siberia, or in a sunken nuclear submarine. Maybe they’re in the Gobi desert, or they’re dancing under the aurora australis in Antarctica. Or, like Mutt himself, the whole tale may be fabricated from bits of unconnected events, pieced together into an entertaining yarn, presenting the banes and boons of technology, and the dangers in underestimating it, a warning to not turn on it lest it turn on us. I leave it to you all to decide.”

The lights were now fully back up.

“Thank you,” he says with a small bow.

Applause can be heard throughout the building, and many in the rooms stand. Doctor Voldman approaches and they shake hands, then Archeville steps back so Voldman can take the microphone. “My, that certainly was something! Well, um, it seems we've got about fifteen minutes before the reception starts, so if there are any comments or questions...?”

[[ The preceding was based upon “Rachael’s Mutt,” Episode VI of Season 1 of Sean Kennedy’s Tales from the Afternow. It has been adapted with permission. The original story can be listened to at http://www.theafternow.com/listen.php; I highly recommend giving it -- and all the other eps -- a listen. ]]

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At the close of Dr. Archeville's speech, Eric is one of the first to stand and give the good Doctor his well deserved standing ovation. True, this wasn't anything like what Eric had predicted it would be, but this was quite a nice substitute. Archeville had reminded Eric of one of his old professors, Doctor William Hambridge, who taught Business Ethics, a required course. Dr. Hambridge's class was always unexpected and eventful.

Eric recalled one particular class where Hambridge had placed a small standing mirror on each and every desk before class began. He said "During this class you may have to answer to me, during your time here you'll have to answer to the deans, in the time after you'll have to answer to your bosses, and after that you'll have to answer to your significant other and maybe even to your children or grandchildren. But after all of that, from now until the day you die and even after that, the one person you really have to answer to is sitting right in front of you. Don't disappoint them, and you'll do no wrong in this world."

Eric had connected with Mutt more than he had with Kohout. True, he had a work ethic similar to Kohout's, as the scars on his hands would attest to, but Eric felt that underneath it all he still had Mutt's heart; Eric works this hard because he has something to protect. But more than that, Eric felt human. He may have a goal, and he may work in extremes to get it, but underneath it all, he still had a human heart, there were still lines he wouldn't cross. Mutt and Kohout even didn't have that. Mutt only had the goal to save Rachael, and did everything to accomplish that in the most efficient and direct manner there was, just like a machine would. Kohout, was just heartless. A man who has nothing but his work is not a man at all.

Archeville had done something immeasurably valuable for Eric this night. Eric had been questioning himself, he was asking himself if he really was in the right, had he gone to far? But Archeville had reminded him of who he really was and who he really need to take a long hard look at. Eric Micheals was a man of science, and maybe even a super-villain on the outside, but on the inside he really was just a human like everyone else, and of that, Eric could be proud.

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*Well, that was a little bit pointless,* thought Sara. *Though I liked how he presented it and I can see how it would make a person think. Still I would have preferred some weird theories, cool schematics, and analysis of powered individuals' abilities. Oh well, I guess there's no controlling genius.*

An idea began forming in her head, an idea based on the nanoreplacement brain mentioned, but significantly different in function. *My god, I could become Immortal if I so chose, knowing what I know now. The Eternal Neurologic. What a pretty thought. I think I'll get started on that post-haste. Thank you very much, doctor. You have given me much to think on.*

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Wilhelm had had more than just the doctor's oration on his mind as the story of Mutt and Rachel wound on to a close, but the initial matter will have to wait for the reception before broaching to Archeville. As for the tale itself, the ancient mystic found it easiest to think of technology, at least on the level of development discussed, to be in a sense a kind of magic. For so much of the contents of the tale had parallells within the realm of magic, up to and including the inherent dangers of mistreating a golem endowed with sentience. In fact he could recall one of his fellow students making that particular mistake, the cleanup had taken days and driven that particular lesson home well enough that he could still recall it despite the patchy nature of his memory.

Now, since he didn't have any questions which were suitable for the moment he'd just wait until the reception and then try to get to speak with the good doctor.

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Well, I'd say that went over pretty damn well.


Oh, wait, are you upset? Upset that the plan worked? Worked exactly as I knew it would?!

I still say it was a mistake, letting you take more of the "driver's seat" in order to tap into the primitive, animalistically charismatic side you represent.

Jealous, jealous, yoouuu arrre jealous!


For what seemed like an eternity, the room was filled with buzzings and murmurs and half-whispers, but no one spoke in a loud or clear voice. Eventually, though, someone did stand, a well-built man with close-cropped blonde hair who seemed more at home in a gym than in a lecture hall. "Yeah, hi, er, Doc," he stammered a bit at first, "is there any truth to the rumors that you're joining the Freedom League?"

The buzzings and murmurs roughly tripled in intensity, but swiftly fell down to less than half their original volume.

Archeville chuckled, “dat is a gut question, ja, und von I seem to be asked a lot lately. Am I joining de Freedom League? Vell... let's say 'no,' I am not joining de League, but I am trying to make meinself available to dem for... consultations und collaborations. Though I am still vaiting for Daedalus to return mein calls!”

“Speaking of de Greek inventor, I haff been lead to believe dat dere vill be a blend of both Greek und German delicacies from de caterers." He looked back to Voldman and the other professors and alums seated behind him. Voldman checked his watch, then rose, and the others followed. “Und so, I say -- if I may be de von to close dis lecture, Professor Voldman -- sprichen was wahr ist, issen was gar ist, und trinken was klar ist: 'speak what is true, eat what's been well cooked, and drink what's available'!”

Archeville and the other professors and alumni headed outside, soon followed by many of the attendees. The large tree-lined court behind the Bernanke Center was filed with tables, both low ones to sit at and taller one for standing by. Along the middle were two long tables filled with food, each dish accompanied by a small sign indicating exactly what it was. The right table was filled with assorted Greek dishes, heavy on vegetables and cheeses, but with a fair amount of lamb and chicken; the far end held several pastries, some delicate, all sweet. The left table held German foods, breads and sausages of all types, a few hearty vegetable stews and assorted dumplings, and a couple of fish dishes.

“What the?!” Voldman blurted out, clearly surprised at the spread.

“Ah, I do apologize, professor, I should haff told you earlier,” Archeville said with a sly grin. “You see, I learned dat de original plan vas to just haff some small appetizers, nutzing very spectacular. But since dis vas my first time back on campus, I vanted to make it somevhat... memorable. So I contacted a few caterers and arranged for all of dis, out of mein own pocket. Unfortunately, campus policy prevented me from bringing in any alcoholic beverages, but dere are plenty of coffees und teas available at de end of de line. Plus, it's supper time, so vhy not give de people a full supper?!”

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Eric left with the crowd heading off to the reception, his neck craning to see where the good Doctor had wandered off to. When he neared the reception area however, something else caught his attention; the smell of great food was wafting through the corridors. Stepping through the door way, Eric let out a bark like laugh at the spread and several of the audience's expressions upon seeing the practical feast in front of them. "Truly a work of genius." Eric says to nobody in particular as he grabs a plate. He heads up the right table adding a sample of nearly every cheese, a smattering of vegetables, and a small bit of chicken. He then heads along the left grabbing a variety of sausages and bread.

Once again craning his neck, Eric finds both a relatively empty table and that Dr. Archeville is practically being mobbed by people walking up to his and giving him thanks or simply exchanging words with him. Deciding to give Dr. Archeville a bit of breathing room for the moment, Eric heads for the table.

"Anyone sitting here?" he asked to the couple sitting at the table.

"No, it's free. I'm John and this is Carrie."

"Nice to meet you. John. Carrie." replies Eric shaking their hands.

Between mouth fulls of some really delicious food, the three of them start swapping a few stories and talking about Archeville's speech.

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Wilhelm manouvered himself so that he was only a few people behind the good doctor as the crowd headed off to the reception, something he found remarkably easy to do with his current unusually sharp sixth sense. Being aware of just how everyone nearby was moving at any one time certainly helped keeping anyone from hindering him overly much, though also being aware of just what some people had under the soles of their shoes and the fact that he could sense what was transpiring within one of the restrooms involving a lunch having consisted of slightly dodgy mexican food did put a considerable damper to his desire to try and somehow grant himself permanent access to this kind of clarity.

“Ah, I do apologize, professor, I should haff told you earlier,†Archeville said with a sly grin. “You see, I learned dat de original plan vas to just haff some small appetizers, nutzing very spectacular. But since dis vas my first time back on campus, I vanted to make it somevhat... memorable. So I contacted a few caterers and arranged for all of dis, out of mein own pocket. Unfortunately, campus policy prevented me from bringing in any alcoholic beverages, but dere are plenty of coffees und teas available at de end of de line. Plus, it's supper time, so vhy not give de people a full supper?!â€Â

"Ah, very considerate of you doctor." The eldery looking mage said in flawless german while moving up past the pair towards the left side spread giving a respectful tip of the head to Archeville as he did so. Once he reached the bounty of food he helped himself to a wide selection of the generous spread; he'd actually forgotten to eat lunch while delving into his tomes of arcane lore.

With a healthy selection of nutrition chosen for himself, and having noted that the poor doctor was more or less swamped with people, Wilhelm takes a seat at a small table. Eagerly he began filling the hole in his stomach caused by the missed lunch while keeping half-a-mind on what Archeville was doing.

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Eric's bark-laugh caught Archeville's attention, and when Eric saw the super-scientist looking his way, he had an expression as if he were trying to remember who Eric was.

Hey, I think we know that guy!

What? No, we don't. You're hallucinating, low blood sugar. Here, get some maultaschen.

No, I mean it! I think he was in that huge database of "Wealthy People Who Might Fund Our Scientific and Technical Projects". Or maybe it was the "Weapons Researchers We Should Persuade To Make Compliance Weapons."

Food now, talk later.

Archeville's attention was quickly drawn away by hearing someone speak in his native tongue. He made a mental note of the rather tall speaker, and planned on making sure to chat with him for a bit before the reception was over.

But all this would have to wait, because at his moment, Archeville was being half-lead, half-dragged to a table with some of the old alumni from the stage. Including the one who'd been so unceremoniously tossed about on stage, and his dagger-staring wife. “Ah, professor und Frau Terrayne, so... good to see you two again. How was your latest trip to Yellowstone?”

After about 10 minutes of being talked down to by the Terraynes, hearing how terribly offended they were at the events and at Archeville's cavalier attitude towards it all, the doctor subtly nudged a passerby with his foot. The passerby apologized for almost tripping over him, exactly as he'd hoped. “Ah, no need to apologize, my good man, such things happen! Say, aren't you von of de new Engineering professors?” Archeville turned back to the Terraynes, “excuse me just one moment, please, I've been meaning to talk to dis man for some weeks now!” Before either could reply, Archeville was off, following the man... whose identity or vocation he in truth knew nothing about.

Soon he'd made his way to the small table where the young man with the barking laugh (i.e., Eric Micheals) was seated, though it took him another 15 minutes as he stopped to exchange pleasantries with numerous people. “Guten abend, good evening! I trust you're all enjoying de food."

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Eric nearly spits his drink all over John and Carrie when he hears the German accent right above his shoulder. Spinning around, wide eyed with shock, Eric takes in the sight of the man he was just about to fight his way over to see. Eric gets to his feet almost frantically "Oh my God. Dr. Archeville. It's really an honor to meet you sir. Umm wow, wow wow.." With a calming breath, he manages to regain some composure, and he extends his hand. "Wait where are my manners? I'm Eric Micheals, and yes the food is absolutely amazing, best I've had in years; but couldn't hold a candle to your speech doctor. It was life changing."

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“'Life-changing,' Herr Micheals? Vell, I don't believe anyone's ever said dat about any of mein lectures before -- danke!" Smiling, Archeville sat down next to Eric.

He briefly turned to Carrie and John, “Hello, hello. Enjoyink de evenink, ja? Er, pardon me von moment."

He then turned back to Eric, “Herr Micheals, I am very pleased you haff come ere: I haff been meanink to talk mit you for some time. You are involved mit Dart, Incorporated, a veapons manufacturer, ja? De owner, technically speaking, though you prefer to verk in R&D rather dan de boardroom, if I recall de articles on you in Forbes und Fortune correctly." He leaned in a bit closer, “I'd do exactly de same if I vere you!," then leaned back out. “Dere are some business matters I vished to discuss mit you, but not here und now; I prefer to do all business duties before supper. When vould be a good time for you?"

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It becomes quite obvious to everyone present that Eric is absolutely geeking out that Dr. Archeville knows who he is. When Dr. Archeville mentions that he would like to discuss matters privately you can tell that he is desperately trying to maintain a semblance of maturity while on the inside, he feels like a 5 year old child that they could spend the entire day in a candy store with the Power Rangers. Eric isn't quite bouncing up and down in the chair, though he can't quite seem to get that grin off of his face.

"What times are good for me? For the great Dr. Archeville, I would practically miss my own wedding. Tomorrow maybe? As you said, I own the company, I can take off whenever I want; especially if its to meet with a person of your exceptional skills doctor. But whenever is good for you is great for me."

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