A hush went over the room when the husband and wife took the podium. He asked everyone to be seated and listen to a statement they had prepared. The announcement was further complicated by the newborn child the woman held. The baby looked very much like her mother and shared the thick, black hair of her ancestors. But she was also light of complexion and resembled her father in that manner. Before he began to read, the baby started crying, forcing her mother to hand her to a nanny who was on the side. Therefore all the press pictures which sped across the planet that day showed David Smith, his wife Jada and their newborn baby, Davada, with the nanny. This prompted as the same question asked ten million times that day: “Who is that woman on the side holding the baby?”
“We have a statement to make,” David said, as he took the microphone. He was fair of skin and shared the blue eyes of those who had settled the Unites States from England. “But I’m lousy at public speaking, so I’m going to let my wife do the talking. It was her idea in the first place, so she needs to be the one making the statement and answering the questions.”
Jada Smith took the microphone from him and looked at the audience. She was a dark woman, dark as the coal from which a diamond is formed. Jada was slight in build and mobile, showing her dance instructor’s body which had spent years teaching young girls all the positions needed to do their recitals.
She tested the microphone and pulled a sheet of papers out of her business suit, looking at the audience with care. There had to be close to 500 people in the hall, at least several thousand more outside. They were all waiting to hear the results of the power generation test of the Tokamak reactor, the one which could simulate the way the sun made energy: by fusing hydrogen to make helium. The clean way which would solve earth’s energy needs for the next ten thousand years and enable humanity to go to the stars. Jada had come a long way from her humble beginnings in Mississippi. David too from his origins in Ohio.
“Good afternoon,” she said into the microphone, “I want you to look at the display on the ceiling. Please note the power yield figures from the initial test of the Tokamak-Simmons reactor. It has generated enough electrical power to be considered a success.” She used a pointer to show the figures and heard the sound of countless notebook computers, tablets and even paper pads jotting down the information. Across the room, cameras clicked and flashed at the chart.
David sat there with their newborn child and wanted to tell his daughter how proud he was of her mother. Humanity was headed into the next millennium and it was her doing. She would grow up in a world that never knew the fear of starvation or deprivation.
And yet it had started so innocently at college years ago, he remembered. Had he not noticed the shy black girl sitting in the student lounge, his and her life might have gone differently. It was amazing what one encounter could lead to and how it was going to change the world. He rocked his daughter gently after the nanny had given her to him and looked out at the audience. No one would have believed it possible ten, twenty years ago. He had even silenced his cell phone. One of his assistants was standing off to the side with a stand-by phone, just in case there was an important message he had to take. But David didn’t anticipate any such messages. When Jada had finished delivering her speech, there might be time for them, but for now, this was his wife’s moment.
David Smith had been an idle little computer programming major at Olentangy University in central Ohio when he started college. He had few friends and spent most of his time learning some new aspect of programming. He had impressed his teachers in high school and this had resulted in a recommendation for the programming course at the college for accelerated and gifted students. It was a good decision as he really wasn’t too interested in anything else, other than his science fiction novels and computer games. David had a vast knowledge of classic science fiction literature from his years of reading his father’s old paperback books in the basement at the family house.
His dad had been an engineer in a series of aviation companies which had gone bust in the later part of the twentieth century in the USA. The consolidation and outsourcing of heavy equipment manufacturing had struck the Midwest hard over the years and nothing seemed to replace the government funded aviation works around former tooling centers such as Dayton and Tipp City. So his father had been eager to push programming and computer work on David at an early age.
David had shown some rare talent and sailed through the advanced courses at the college. Olentangy University was one of the largest colleges in the American Midwest or anywhere else and attracted some of the best computing minds in the world. Dave was able to study under some very prestigious professors even as a lowly undergraduate. He impressed them with his skills and understanding of just about every computer language available. It was something he could acquire naturally and he didn’t find it difficult understanding the abstract reasoning behind the theories used to make the languages work.
Jada Young had attended the same college, but on an education scholarship from her hometown in Mississippi. Her father had been the pastor of a church in the delta region and had seen up-close how poverty and a lack of education stopped people from advancing. He was determined his children would all attend college and go on to first-class jobs. He was a God-fearing man who ran his church with concern for the poor in his community and did what he could do to help everyone.
She was the youngest of three children and her older brothers had attended Grambling State in Louisiana on athletic scholarships. When Jada’s turn came, her parents wanted her to attend a good teacher’s college. They selected Olentangy because it had one of the best reputations in the country. It also had a program for taking kids out of rural areas and training them to become public school teachers. So her parents selected this school for her.
Jada hadn’t wanted to become a teacher, but it was the best way to get out of her small town, so she agreed to her parents’ plan. Jada had two passions when she was growing up: dance and science. She had watched a ballet on TV when she was six years old and was mesmerized. Her parents’ didn’t think dance was a proper choice for a young lady, but agreed to let her take ballet lessons at the local storefront dance school. Her other passion, science, was nurtured from a teacher in elementary school who would take the class on field trips and explain the wonders of nature to them. Jada discovered the science section at her school library and read every book she could find on the subject.Her parents couldn’t see the logic in lettering her major in a scientific field unless it was to teach science in high school. So she enrolled in OU’s science education program and tried her hardest not to spend time in the school’s extensive library where every subject had a book dedicated to it. She survived her first year of college and was able to stay in student housing on campus which was dedicated to honor students with financial difficulties. She managed to take a few dance classes as her general education requirements, but she lacked the time to audition for any of the dance companies on campus or in the town of Scioto where the college was located.
While Jada was struggling with her course load, David was struggling to adjust to campus life. Never the social butterfly, David had to work hard to socialize with the people around him. He just didn’t care for people. People annoyed him, but computers did what they were supposed to do when programmed correctly. He tried attending one of the science fiction club meetings, but the general appearance of the club members put him off. It didn’t help that the club met right next to a prayer meeting of Pentecostals and he was forced to listen to a hellfire sermon coming from the next room. Music soothed him and he found himself searching the bins at used record and CD shops looking for what he could play to use as background sounds to drown out the noise of the other students around him.
Women remained an absolute mystery to him. Although he had always wanted to have a girlfriend, David hadn’t a clue how to go about finding one. He had lived in student housing the first year on campus and found it to be an absolute zoo of partying and promiscuity. Lacking the ability to recognize social clues most of the other students had, David found it difficult to even engage in a conversation with a member of the fairer sex. He would stare in fascination as the smooth athletic types in his dormitory engaged in casual conversation which might lead to a little action later, but he found it too complicated to do himself. Time and time again he would be told by a roommate or friend a girl was interested in him only to respond with a look of disbelief on his face. How the hell could any woman be the least bit interested in him and why hadn’t he noticed? The few times he’d been out with women on solo dates, they’d ended in disasters as he had trouble grasping the unwritten rules of etiquette which governed his social interactions.
Jada had plenty of suitors but did her best to ignore them all. Most of the guys who made a play for her thought a backwoods girl from the delta would be an easy target. They were dead wrong. She specialized in breaking down the approach methods of any manner of pick-up artist who tried to hit on her during the day and evening. Watching them melt when she turned the lines back on them was a game to her that she seldom lost. It didn’t help she had a growth spurt her last year of high school which turned her into a tall, beautiful woman of color. She would walk down the street and have to endure the cat calls of any number of men and boys. After a few months, Jada had learned to tune them out. Her big claim to fame was watching a lothario dissolve one night at a party when he tried to smooth-talk his way into her pants. She told him he wasn’t traveling fast enough for her company and listened to the outburst of laughter in the room. He had gone on to less-armored targets after losing to her.
Fate decided to play a fun little game one day by placing them both in the same student lounge one slow evening in the fall. They were both between classes that evening, having been forced to take a later class in their studies because of the way the scheduling had worked out. David needed to take an advanced math class and was waiting for the lecture hall to empty. Jada was taking an education theory class the same hour on a different floor, but in the same building. They had both ridden the same bus across campus to the other side to take their courses, but were oblivious to each other. For some reason, the college had built an extension onto it on the other side of the Franklin River, which ran next to the college.
David was sitting down with his laptop trying to get a complicated code to run correctly. He had figured out a new route for it the night before, but something just didn’t want to initiate like it should. He was on his sixth attempt when he turned and saw Jada. He was stunned. She was a vision like he had never experienced before. Across from him in the room was a long-legged black woman of his age who was wearing a dancer’s leotard under a large sweater. She was sitting on the floor of the lounge which was cushioned by a carpet. Her hair was tied-up with a scarf and she was reading a book. The book title caught his attention: A New Kind of Science by Stephen Wolfram.
David had just about had a mental break-down trying to get through Wolfram’s tome on cellular automata and couldn’t fathom someone trying to read it as a past time. From her place, it appeared she had read at least the first quarter. He had to find out who she was, but how? Every time he tried to meet a woman it went south. He would walk up to them, start talking about something he noticed and, usually, it was the wrong thing to notice. How was he supposed to introduce himself to this stunning woman without making an absolute fool of himself?
Jada had noticed the skinny, but tall, white guy on the other side of the room swearing under his breath at what he saw on his laptop. He’d startled her a few times when he slammed his hand down on the table where he sat, but she realized he wasn’t aware of her and assumed he was the only person in the room. She tried to avoid laughing the first time it happened, but just tuned him out afterwards. Then she went back to her book. It was a thick book to be hauling around on campus for a subject she wasn’t studying, but it interested her. She’d found it at a used bookstore the other week and took it home, referring back to it when she had the opportunity. She had delved deep into it by now, finding Wolfram’s contention that seemingly random events were the result of complex automata. It was an intriguing idea, but she wasn’t sure she bought into it just yet.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw the guy turn and look at her. Perhaps he would be a little bit quieter now that he realized she was in the room too. She had another five minutes before the class began and wanted to get as far along in this book as she could. She had just left a dance rehearsal for another college production and needed to get back to the dorms after her class was finished. It was her first time joining a campus dance group and she wanted to stick with it this time. It was early in the term, but she had an exam coming up in a few days and needed to spend some time studying for it.
David looked at his computer screen and pretended not to notice her. He felt the stirring inside himself whenever he had to interact with someone on a personal level. It was not easy. And he truly wanted to know her. She was an exotic and beautiful creature which had caught his attention. He closed his eyes and tried to come up with a scenario that involved meeting her where he didn’t look like a fool. Someone had once advised him to just “go for it” and not worry about any embarrassment, but David found that impossible to accomplish. He was still suffering from the effects of trying to phone a popular girl in high school. The entire school had known about it the next day and he never attempted calling another girl again, much to the grumbling of his mother who couldn’t understand why her son didn’t have a steady girlfriend she could brag about.
Jada had another look at the guy who was trying to avoid looking at her and wasn’t succeeding. Had she seen him somewhere before? She had, he was the awkward guy on the bus she’d taken this evening who seemed oblivious to everything around him. How nice it must be to walk through life not having to worry about people who judged you and men who wanted to get into your pants every minute. She had shut one Romeo down that afternoon on her way to the rehearsal that kept following her. These college boys were becoming an increasing problem and she wondered if dating an athlete might be a good way to get them to leave her alone. All she would have to do would be to inform one of the stalkers that she already had a boyfriend and he kicked field goals. It seemed like a good idea.
David wished there was a program he could run which made talking to women easy. Maybe he should write one. He couldn’t be the only science major with issues meeting girls. There were always the webcam girls to practice on, although their motivations were to keep you on line and feed money into their account. If he found a method to shut one of those down, imagine what money he could make! He made a note to look into the possibility later. But for now, he had to find a way to approach this girl. Dammit, she was looking at the clock; this could only mean she was thinking of leaving the lounge. How could he make his approach with the time running out? Wasn’t there supposed to be some kind of anti-anxiety medication you could take for this situation? Wouldn’t do him any good now without a prescription and time to get to a pharmacy. There was only one thing he could do and that was to make an approach and do it now. Now!
Jada watched the guy get up from the desk and walk over to her. Okay, he was going to talk to her. She only had five minutes and didn’t have time to deal with this. So help her God if he tried another line on her today she was going to slam him in the head with the book. It was hardbound and over a thousand pages, so it would do some damage. But the young guy just came over to her and stared at the book. He continued to stare at it until she closed it, put it down on the floor and looked up at him.
“Yes,” she said. “Did you want something?”
“The book,” he said to her. “How far are you into it?”
She told him the page and subject. He asked her what she thought of it and she told him Wolfram had some good ideas, but the true test of any science was how reproducible it was. If the results he claimed were conclusive, then it would be a new kind of science. But she doubted it was an entirely new branch, just a subgrouping of an existing one.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” he told her, “My name is David. I’m sorry if I interrupted.”
“Jada,” she told him. “It’s okay. I haven’t found any other people who’ve tackled this book. Do you have it?”
“Yes I do,” he said. “I’ve been a big fan of his programming language, Mathematica. I’ve used it several times to get some things to work I couldn’t in any other language.”
“I have to leave, David,” she told him. “I’ve got a class in two minutes. You here for a class too?”
“Yes,” he told her. “Advanced math. It kicks off in a few minutes too. You’re taking the bus back?”
“At ten,” she said. “My class only meets once a week.”
“I’m leaving at eight,” he told her. “I guess you’ll be here on Tuesday nights?”
“Yes,” she said, gathering up her books and school papers to return to her backpack. “I guess I’ll see you next week.” At least he hadn’t tried something on her and seemed interested in the book she was reading. It was a favorite tactic of Jada to shut down the suitors when she was reading a book to ask them what the last one was they had read.
“Do you live on campus?” he asked her. “I’m just off the college, in one of the apartments at the corner of McGuffy and Low Street.”
“I’m still in the towers,” she told him, hitching the pack over one shoulder. “Will probably be there until I graduate.”
“Would it be alright if I called you?” he asked. “I’d like to talk some more.”
“Sure,” she told him and gave him her phone number. “Just not tonight and never after ten, I have roommates who don’t like to be disturbed. See you later.”
He memorized her number and watched her go, the lithely figure drifting down the hall.
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