Dr. Varisha Makh stood on her balcony with her morning tea, and made a noise between a sigh and a grunt of irritation. Theo, who most nights slept on her balcony, shimmied up the railing and sat next to her.
“I can’t help thinking,” Varisha said to her sixer companion, “That the solution to the problem is so simple that I’m going to kick myself when I figure it out.”
“Perhaps the solution awaits a new, as yet unknown refinement of current imaging techniques which requires the power of quantum computing,” Theo said. He now affected an orotund, lugubrious timbre that would have knocked Charles Laughton off his game had he survived to experience it, while Theo’s accent approached that of a closeted western Canadian politician orating during amateur theatrics. When it wasn’t annoying, it was amusing. Or she’d get gooseflesh, listening to him; the contrast between his voice and his appearance was so vast. He often said grisly, repellent things in an offhand way, as if he was checking to see if she was paying attention.
She looked out over a sliver of the Burrard Inlet, the only remaining view after more towers had gone up around her condo building, and tightened her grip on her teacup. “The lattice-work structures Kima made for Raven’s recovery are consuming me. FAS and the media and every burn patient currently alive wants to know about that, and I don’t know what to tell them. I want to work on the imaging problems instead and I don’t actually have any budget for that. Being worn to a thread by the barrage of bullshit waiting outside the front door and knowing that some hack is probably taking a picture of me, right now, while I’m standing here in my dressing gown, is destroying my life.”
“No hacks are taking pictures at the moment.”
“I wish I knew how you know that’s so, but I believe you,” Makh said, “It’s a relief, really.”
Theo returned to the problem they were working. “When trying to get a new perspective, a common approach is to find something that forces you out of whatever conceptual rut you are in. I have compiled a list, and hoped you’d favour me with a demonstration of your lateral thinking skills.”
Makh briefly considered how useful Theo’s advice was likely to be. “Well,” Makh said thoughtlessly, “If I really wanted to send my brain sideways, I could always try drugs.”
“That is a known stimulus for creative thinking,” Theo said agreeably. “Would you like me to procure you some which have demonstrated utility in the past, and test them for freshness before I give them to you?”
Makh tried to picture her stepmother’s reaction to her being busted for drugs. “I was being facetious, which is always a horrid mistake with you,” Makh said.
“I wasn’t. Let me know how any other approaches work,” Theo said. “You’re an unconventional person, or you would never have agreed to help Raven.”
“And I came within a hair of losing my licence to practice medicine, you shiny bag of trouble,” Makh said.
“Money fixes almost everything in human space,” Theo said. “Drugs take care of the rest.”
Makh was not having it. “Really? I suppose the equivalent in sixer space is denial and being glib.”
Theo vanished, and Makh rolled her eyes and went back indoors.