Vaz, p.1

Vaz, page 1



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  Title Page

  P rologue




  Laurence E Dahners

  Copyright 2013 Laurence E Dahners

  Smashwords Edition

  Author’s Note

  This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.


  Lisanne Frye pulled her blond hair back behind her ear and turned her eyes to glance at her teammate. He’d surprised her at every turn since Professor Albrecht had assigned them to be a team at the beginning of the semester. That assignment had been solely based on their positions in the alphabet. She’d had this Vaz Gettnor kid in some of her classes before but had never spoken to him because he seemed so weird. Stodgy clothes, weird tufty dark hair, never spoke unless spoken to and never looked you in the eye. She thought he must have some kind of psychiatric disorder.

  When the Professor had listed them as a team, before even having a first meeting with Gettnor, she’d gone to Albrecht and asked to be reassigned. Albrecht had abruptly dismissed her, “Someday you vill have to work vis people you don’ like,” he’d said in his odd accent. “Just as vell start now.” After cursing Albrecht for a suitable period she’d sent an email to Gettnor asking him to meet her in a study center.

  His only reply had been, “OK.”

  At the meeting, Gettnor had been waiting uncomfortably at a table in the first floor study area as she’d specified. He’d been sitting staring at his slate which had been laid out on the table but not turned on. Lisanne had introduced herself and he’d shaken her hand. Even his hand shake had been creepy. It had been a “put your hand out, allow it to be grasped, twitch it, take it back.” During the handshake his eyes had risen briefly, though not even to her face, then dropped immediately back to the table.

  When she’d asked if he had any idea how they should go about the project they’d been assigned, he’d only shaken his head. Deciding she’d have to lead their team, she divided up the various tasks that would need to be accomplished to build the software controller module they’d been assigned. She turned her slate with its list of nine tasks to him and asked him which ones he would like to take on. He’d looked at it a minute and, to her astonishment, selected seven of them.

  Bemused she’d picked four and left him with five. In view of his reticence to communicate she hadn’t been surprised that “writing up the results” was one she’d been stuck with.

  They’d met a week later to discuss their progress and determine if parts of the project were going to be problematic. She’d said “Hi Vaz,” as she walked up to the table.

  After a pause, without looking up from his blank slate, he’d said only, “Hello.” Thinking like the programmer she intended to become, she decided he was running some poorly written software that required a lot of processor cycles to conclude that he needed to respond to the social debt created by her “Hi.”

  She sat beside him and flipped on her slate. “I’ve finished my first task and started on numbers two and three. Of course I haven’t started on number four, the write-up of our results, since I don’t know what they’ll be.” With some dread she said, “How are you coming with your parts?” She’d been developing ulcers over her fear that he wouldn’t finish any of his tasks and she’d have to do the entire project herself to pull a decent grade.

  He said only, “Done.”

  Lisanne blinked a moment or two, not sure what he meant. “Done with which part?”

  “All of them. Well except the write-up… I suck at that.”

  Her eyebrows shot up, “You’ve finished all five of yours?”

  “I did the first eight. Even though you’re doing some of them I wanted the practice. We don’t have to use mine though.”

  She drew back, “You’ve finished the first eight,” she said dubiously.

  He nodded.

  Her eyes narrowed. “You haven’t plagiarized some programming off the net have you?”

  “No. I looked at a couple, but they weren’t written very well.”

  Suspiciously Lisanne said, “Okaaay, send them to me and I’ll look them over.”

  He mumbled to his AI (Artificial Intelligence) and a moment later a tone and a blink on her HUD (Heads Up Display) told her she’d received the files.

  “Meet here again, same time next week?”

  He nodded.

  Back in her dorm room she pulled up the files he’d sent her and cursed. They were much too small to be able to achieve the complex goals the team had been set. Rather than start analyzing them line by line, she just tried them to see if they could possibly respond correctly based on Albrecht’s specifications.

  They did. Every single one of them.

  She began looking through the code he’d written, feeling more and more awed as she went through it. Sparsely written, it didn’t use any of the modules of code that were in such common use that programmers normally just plugged them in to accomplish certain tasks without trying to write something themselves. These common modules were in such wide use that no one knew who’d written them or thought that using them was plagiarism. In places Lisanne could find blocks of Vaz’s code which did the same thing as the canned code blocks. She compared Vaz’s code to three of the modules available out there in various libraries and his were 10-30% more economical of processor cycles. They also spread the load over the processors that were available very nicely,

  With awe, she recognized that what he’d already finished on each of the eight tasks was head and shoulders above what she could do, even if she spent the entire semester on a single one of the tasks.

  Lisanne shivered and set out to complete the write-up that would be her only contribution to their shared project.

  Lisanne walked into the library the next week and found Gettnor waiting at their usual table. “Hey Vaz, I’m taking you for coffee, let’s get out of this place.”

  “I don’t drink coffee.” He hadn’t looked up from the table.

  Lisanne grabbed his elbow and tugged. “OK, you can have a Coke or a juice or something.”

  Gettnor reluctantly got up from the table, “Where are we going?”

  “Union coffee shop. Come on.”

  “I’ve never been there,” he said, almost plaintively.

  Lisanne didn’t feel any surprise. “There’s always a first time.”

  Once she had a coffee and he had a Diet Coke, they sat facing each other at a little table for two. As she sipped her coffee, she stared over the rim of her cup at him. “Vaz, you didn’t use common code blocks in your programs.”

  “I know.”

  “You wrote everything new?”

  “No, I’ve already rewritten most of the common code blocks. I do it for each one I come across. They’re sloppy.” He said this as if he were offended that someone had written code that was inefficient.

  She realized that though he was staring down at the table, she thought he had a nice symmetrical face. He might not be model handsome but he wasn’t bad looking either. “Vaz, look at me.”

  His eyes flashed up at her momentarily, then back to his blank slate. He sucked on the straw in his drink.

  “No, really look at me. I don’t think you’ve even seen my face.”

  “I have...” he said quietly, “You’re very pretty.”

  “When?” she said in surprise.

  “On line. There are many pictures of you available.”

  She giggled, trying to decide if she should be creeped out that this weird guy spent time looking at her pictures even though he couldn’t bring himself to actually look at her. But he seemed so harmless. Just so exceedingly shy. Finally she said, “Well, I want you to look at me in person! Come on.”

  He slowly raised his head and eyes to look at her.
His gaze danced around her face, but he never looked her in the eye, merely slid past her eyes on the way to examining other features. After about ten seconds his eyes dropped back to his slate.

  “There that wasn’t so bad was it?”

  Even at the angle his downward gaze presented she could tell a grin appeared on his face. He shook his head.

  “I want to look at you too. Look at me some more.”

  He looked up again and she studied him. He actually could be quite attractive she thought, if he could look you in the eye. She turned her head side to side, “What do you think?”

  “You’re very beautiful.”

  Surprised she said, “Aw, I’ll bet you say that to all the girls.”

  He looked shocked, “No!” His head dropped back down and he almost whispered, “I’ve never said that to anyone!”

  Realizing how painfully shy Vaz was, Lisanne resolved to stop teasing him. “I was only kidding. We should meet here again next week. You can tell me what you think of the summary I wrote. I sent it to your AI.”

  “I’m sure it’s fine. Much better than anything I could write.”

  “So, you don’t want to meet with me next week?”

  Looking stricken, Vaz blurted, “Yes! Yes, I do.”

  Stifling a smile Lisanne said. “OK. This same table, next week.”

  Lisanne came to feel great joy that they’d been assigned to be a team. Vaz was weird; there was no doubt about that. But he was a genius at programming and would be going on to grad school in, of all things, physics. He may be weird, but weird in a sweet/brilliant sense and as time passed she’d found that she loved his bizarre, introspective sense of humor.

  The Story

  Twenty years have passed.

  Vaz Gettnor stared in frustration at the graphic representation of the atomic spacing in his proposed hydrogen absorption alloys. He just couldn’t seem to predict their properties like he’d expected to be able to. So tense he was nearly vibrating, he realized he’d reached under his shirt to begin twisting some chest hairs loose from their roots.

  Disgusted, he stood so suddenly his chair fell over. He didn’t pick it up. Instead he stormed down the hall to his office, closed the door behind him and dropped face first onto his couch. After a moment he pulled back an arm and slugged the cushions.

  It felt good. After a bit he slugged the cushions again with the other arm. After a moment he began pounding the cushion mercilessly. His arms ached with exhaustion when he stopped but he felt… better.

  More calm.

  He slid off onto the floor, put his feet under the couch and started doing sit-ups. Remembering the days in high school when he could easily do 60-100, he was startled to realize that he’d begun struggling after only 30.

  But, as he pounded out sit-ups anyway, a euphoric feeling flooded over him, a “second wind” phenomenon brought on by the release of endorphins. He realized the exhausting exercise had relaxed his tense state. While he sat, panting but feeling blissful, his thoughts wandered back to the hydrogen absorption problem, he… he had an idea about the alloy… a good one!

  After making rapid notes about his new idea he turned to stare at the couch. It would be great if he could do this every time he got all worked up. Burning off the tension that seemed to cripple him would be so… helpful. He looked up at the ceiling… maybe he could get a pull-up bar and install it? And bring in some push-up grips. He noticed that he’d begun to split the seam on the couch cushion by pounding it. He’d need something else to hit he mused.

  He wondered if Querx would object to his installing a pull up bar. After a moment’s thought he decided that his boss Dr. Smint would be OK with it, and Smint seemed to be able to talk the company into whatever he wanted.


  Stillman Davis walked into his new office with a tremendous sense of pride. He’d been working toward a department head position at Querx for three years now. He would rather have been put in charge of Marketing and Promotions, but R&D would do.

  He stepped to his new desk and set down his case, looking around as the lights came up. A bit startled, he realized that someone was sitting in the visitor’s chair in his new office.

  Looking sharply at the man he recognized Jack Smint, the retiring head of R&D. Briefly he wondered what the old coot was doing here? Did he have some bizarre plan to try to keep running R&D by telling Stillman what to do even after he’d been put out to pasture? Stillman knew Smint had worked right up to the company’s mandatory retirement age of 72. He straightened and raised his eyebrows, “Yes?”

  Smint said, “I know you’ve worked hard to avoid having to take any advice from me Davis, but I feel it is terribly important to the company… and to some people I care about, that I try to keep you from stepping on that huge dick you think you have.”

  Davis narrowed his eyes and took a breath to retort.

  Smint grimaced. “Sorry, sorry. My people skills are crap. My apologies. I’ll leave but please, let me just give you one small piece of advice.”

  Davis applied a frosty smile, “Well? Let me have this amazing piece of wisdom.”

  Smint sighed, “Vaz Gettnor, one of your ‘researchers’ is an… odd fellow. My people skills are bad, but his are orders of magnitude worse. Nonetheless, he’s a genius. So my advice… let him work how he wants to work. Don’t give him a narrow project, or a deadline, or expect him to be here on a schedule, or to come to meetings. Make broad suggestions and wait patiently, he’ll produce the unexpected, maybe not what you asked for… but the company will be the better for it.”

  Stillman felt his lip beginning to curl. “So if I mollycoddle this… Gettnor? Then good things will just mysteriously happen?”

  Smint closed his eyes wearily for a moment. “R&D depends on people who see big things. Inspiration isn’t something you can demand and direct. It is an event in the human consciousness that pops up at the most bizarre times and places. Gettnor has the potential to do… amazing things but if you pressure him, he responds like a turtle, closing up and becoming unreachable.”

  Stillman tilted his head curiously. “Why would we even want someone so bizarre? Why not just get rid of him and replace him with a better… engineer or whatever he is?”

  “Physicist.” Smint sighed, “Because, genius isn’t something you can just order from Amazon.”

  Stillman rolled his eyes, “Oh, come on, there are plenty of smart people out there looking for jobs.”

  Smint sighed and stood. He knew his cause was lost. He said ominously, “Keep Gettnor happy… or you’ll regret it.” Smint took his leave, wondering if Vaz might be in so he could say goodbye.


  Stillman Davis finished reviewing the files for the people in his new department. He still had a few minutes before holding his first department meeting so he called up Gettnor’s file to see what Smint had been so excited about the other day. The picture was indeterminate; Gettnor had brownish skin but features that didn’t seem African, Asian, Hispanic, Arabic or Caucasian. It was as if the man’s facial features were a meld of all the races. He had straight looking dark hair, not clearly black, perhaps dark brown. It looked like there might be a patch of hair missing over his right temple with a clumsy attempt to comb other hair over it. The man’s eyebrows were weird too, kinda short, reminding him of a “Hitler moustache” over each eye. He’d grown up in Virginia near D.C. and gone to Virginia Tech, obtaining combined electrical engineering-computer science undergrad degrees in three years. Then he’d completed a PhD in Physics in just three years too.

  Davis sat back. Gettnor must have been an incredible grind to have taken enough hours of classes per semester to finish that quickly.

  Gettnor had actually been on the faculty at VT for a couple of years then abruptly left, apparently in mid semester. He’d been hired here at Querx Tech six months after leaving Virginia Tech suggesting that leaving there hadn’t been premeditated.

  Stillman’s eyebrows rose. Gettnor’d originally been hired
at a pretty low salary for a PhD and had received only minimum cost of living raises since then. However, to Stillman’s irritation, the company also deposited large amounts of money in a separate account for Gettnor. It wasn’t clear why he was getting this extra money which was paid quarterly rather than monthly like a salary.

  Davis’ eyes narrowed. The extra money wasn’t even the same from quarter to quarter. In any case, those deposits resulted in Gettnor taking home a lot more money than Davis, even after the raise he would get with his new job. He tried to ignore it, but it rankled him, especially because he wasn’t sure why Gettnor was getting all that money. He wondered if it was a payoff of some kind?


  “Hello everyone, and thank you for coming to meet with me today.” Davis tried not to frown at the room filled with PhDs and techs. He had heard that the dress code was relaxed in R&D but was still shocked to see many of them wearing t-shirts. In fact his glance around showed him that only two of them were wearing ties. Nonetheless he forced a smile and began the speech he’d rehearsed.

  “R&D is the bulwark on which Querx’s business rests and this group has been doing very well for the company so I’m certainly not going to be making a lot of big changes. I do plan to tighten up reporting so that I can keep a little better track of what goes on,” he frowned as he saw members of his audience glancing at one another, “but I assure you it won’t be intrusive.” For a moment he wondered if they were all misfits like Smint had described. After a moment he went on with his presentation, using graphs to emphasize the importance that R&D held for the company, but also to point out that they needed to continue to produce.

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