The Trattorian Dr. Miyako looked up from the equations she had scribbled in a daze on some napkins. Adjusting her Appel Glasses, she saw a Scythian physicist in a neat red suit extending a champagne flute towards her.
“No thank you,” she pushed it away.
“Well, I’m Professor-”
“Thomas P. Rogers, faculty of the Scythian FTL Institute,” she interrupted. The image analysis software in her Appel Glass had already identified him.
“In that case, it’s my pleasure to meet you,” he responded, bowing slightly. He could only hope that Dr. Miyako, in her social ineptness, had failed to notice his shaking. After all, she had hid herself among the empty round tables in the ballroom’s corner. The bright red bars on her labcoat’s shoulders and trim on her clipped-on ID contrasted against their white settings. Her short black hair almost reached her shoulders and framed the genetically perfected features of a face nearly as pale as her labcoat. Tiny, floating windows of what were presumably physics papers permeated across her Appel Glass-
“Could you please stop staring at my eyes?”. Dr. Miyako dragged Professor Rogers back to reality. “Eye contact makes me uncomfortable.”
“Oh, sorry,” he mumbled. “I just wanted to say, it was really kind of you to be the keynote speaker for this RARCom fundraiser. I really enjoyed that speech on A-D-E classification of modular-invariant partition functions in conformal field theory!”
“You can cease flattering me,” Dr. Miyako replied in a disappointed tone. “I only had to undertake this inane onus as a mutual goodwill gesture to improve Trattorian-RARCom relations. The RARCom organizers coerced me to diminish the intellectual level of the speech, and they had me remove all the sections on Lie algebra classification to enforce a more ‘practical’ subject matter. It was quite a disappointment accommodating this audience of simpletons.”
“Well, I can assure you that I am no simpleton,” Professor Rogers asserted with an added swagger in his voice.
Dr. Miyako dropped the pen she was spinning in her fingers. "Credentials please."
"Well..." Professor Rogers had rehearsed his little self-panegyric many times in the men's restroom. "In high school, I received a 2320 on my SAT and made the finalist round in the Scythian Physics Olympiad. I graduated in the top 10% of my undergraduate class at the Scythian FTL Institute. I then authored a Ph.D. dissertation on magnetic monopoles in condensed matter systems. My current research on the properties of spin ice has earned me a Humboldt research award."
Dr. Miyako remained unfazed, even bored. "You foreign scientists are so full of yourselves, aggrandizing your achievements in such a gaudy manner. I easily I received a 2400 on the SAT and had to choose between representing Trattoria at the International Math or Physics Olympiad- I picked the former and gold-medaled. But of course that doesn't matter, because at the age you were presumably a high school freshman, I was a college freshman. And I graduated summa barf laude and valedictorian from TTI, which I might note has a higher galactic ranking than your FTL Institute. Your one and only Ph.D. is based on a faulty misnomer, since condensed-matter magnetic phenomena do not violate Gauss's Law Of Magnetism and are therefore useless in confirming Dirac's quantization argument. Furthermore, I've never heard of the undistinguished award you mentioned, while I won two Nobel Prizes and a Fields Medal. Now, simpleton, would you allow me to return me to my solace- I was doing some rough derivations to see if the spectral interpretation of nontrivial Riemann-Zeta zeros could shed some insight on the Riemann hypothesis..."
Professor Rogers had zoned out about halfway through her diatribe- she hadn't told him anything he didn't read on her official bio. He would have taken deep offense had it been any other ordinary person- but something about her captivated him, and he couldn't really rationally deny it. Something about her obvious passion for mathematical physics during her keynote, her clear brilliance, her beautiful if somewhat plain and artificial appearance- he hoped that some normal minifig lay buried beneath the heap of arrogance and asexuality, despite how hopeless his colleagues had labeled the endeavor.
"Nonetheless," Professor Rogers replied, "Perhaps I could learn something from an intellect as great as yours." He put on a sweet smile and leaned in towards Dr. Miyako.
"I suppose," Dr. Miyako acquiesced, although Professor Rogers hadn't waited to pull up a chair. “How familiar are you with group theory?”
“Actually, I read your paper formulating a possible Theory of Everything using the simple exceptional Lie group E8. I thought it contained several interesting concepts.” Professor Rogers clenched his fists below the table and prayed to the maidens of Scythia that Dr. Miyako didn’t probe his understanding too far- even the 31-page summary was too dense with abstract mathematics for him to comprehend. The gambit seemed to pay off for now, however, as he now had Dr. Miyako’s full attention.
“Really?” she asked with incredulity. "People bother to waste their time reading that defunct piece anymore?".
"Of course," Professor Rogers reassured her. "I mean, it was a nice piece of work, and clearly shows your intelligence. I don't know why you would be disappointed in it."
"Because it was wrong," she blurted out, her neutral expression starting to slide into melancholy.
"I don't see what was wrong with it," Professor Rogers admitted with honesty. The math in the paper was at a level where he lacked any qualifications to judge its accuracy.
Tears began to pool in Dr. Miyako's eyes. "Two USA physicists published a paper refuting the idea that I could embed the three generations of fermions into the exceptional Lie algebra E8. I tried to counter argue on the fermion embedding objection, but the Trattorian Soledad Fermion Super-Collider failed to detect any of the predicted 22 new bosonic particles even as we approached the Planck energy level. And then Dr. Liang came along..."
She lost her control and began to cry upon mentioning her rival's name. This time she accepted Rogers's offer of a drink, although as a Trattorian it lent no help in clouding her mind or grief. "She's only in her thirties and yet she beat me to the correct Theory of Everything. As a specialist in group theory, I had so wanted the 248-dimensional E8 to be the structure underlying the universe. It's so fundamentally beautiful and symmetric- Dr. Liang's theory, although correct, lacks any mathematical elegance, and can't even explain the mechanics of our universe without appealing to the existence of others. It's as if the powers that be had smashed the BrikVerse together from utterly disparate and disorderly parts- surely you would understand my misery."
“Well, you’re pretty beautiful, even if the universe isn’t. I guess that’s a consolation.”
Dr. Miyako ignored him and Professor Rogers absently nodded, attempting to pretend to understand her predicament. Although they clearly operated on separate wavelengths, Rogers hoped further efforts could bridge the gap between their two thought processes. He was also impressed observing the mental immunity of Trattorians to alcohol in person. Dr. Miyako continued rambling on about higher-level mathematics with the same cogence she possessed at the start even after setting down her fourth glass. It began to dawn on him that inebriation was not a tool at his disposal for smoothing his relations with her.
Professor Rogers stopped Dr. Miyako as she reached for a fifth champagne flute while discussing the merits of triality transformations. "Careful now, Lab Director, I wouldn't want you to die of alcohol poisoning on this occasion. In any case, it's obvious that I hit upon a sensitive topic. How about we try something of a little less gravity?"
"And what would you suggest, Dr. Rogers? Perhaps a talk on your line of work in condensed matter physics? I'm not exactly an expert on the field, but I could more than pass for a-" she inquired.
"Well," Professor Rogers interrupted, "I wanted to ask, Dr. Miyako, if you have any experience dancing? This is a fundraiser gala, after all."
Dr. Miyako tilted her head in confusion, and he repeated the question.
"I don't have any past experience or future inclination," she responded. "When I receive invitations to these sorts of events, I usually do what I'm doing now and continue my work in an unoccupied corner so as to minimize the time wasted."
"If you've never done it before, how can you be so sure that you wouldn't like it? That's not very rational of you."
"Too much interpersonal contact," Dr. Miyako grumbled in immediate reply.
"Well, considering you've engaged me for a half-hour of my time about your work, wouldn't it be fair for me to take five minutes of yours? Just five minutes. Also, the Nobel-winning Britannian physicist Dr. Gabor, inventor of holograms, was well known for his passion for the waltz."
Dr. Miyako fell silent. Professor Rogers took her hand, and although she frowned and pulled back with a small effort, she didn't outright resist.
"A man of your guile would have been better suited as a politician than a scientist," she retorted.
"Thank you," Rogers gracefully accepted as they moved out of the corner and onto the dance floor. That he was dragging a Trattorian in hand attracted much attention. "Now, put your left hand on my shoulder, and just follow my direction. It's very algorithmic, much like a physical Conway's Game of Life."
"Actually, studying cellular automata leads to fascinating results regarding emergent prop-" Professor Rogers put a finger to his lips as the music started again. He guided Dr. Miyako to the gentle string tune, although she kept an awkward distance from him.
"Dr. Miyako, I wanted to ask- do you ever think about things aside from science and mathematics?". He was surprised that despite her relative fame and their conversation, he had learned very little about her as a person.
"My financial matters occupy me out of necessity, including paychecks and taxes. Winning awards and publication in journals is-"
"Also not related to work," Rogers cut her off. He ignored what would have been an accumulation of tremendous irritation in any other situation- he had gotten this far. Dr. Miyako pondered the question, looking towards the floor to avoid eye contact.
"OK, let's try an easier question- maybe you could tell me your first name?" Rogers offered. As seemed to be traditional for Trattorians, the event handouts only listed her initials and surname.
"That does not concern you," she rebuffed.
"Your full name is public domain- you could tell me, or I could look it up."
"Priscilla," she spat out. "And please refrain from even the thought of first-name basis."
"Okay, Dr. Priscilla Miyako," Rogers replied. Judging from her glare, he decided not to push too hard.
The music accelerated in its finale and inspired Rogers with another idea. He lifted his arm and twirled his partner. "Spin 2*pi!". He smiled as, just like a good mathematician, she assumed counterclockwise, labcoat whirling behind her. As the music drew to a close, Professor Rogers drew the two of them to the side.
"So?" Rogers posed simply.
"Five minutes better spent on another derivation," she responded. "Although not as bad as expected," she added after a little more thought.
"See?" Rogers pointed out. "You should try new things before you disparage them. Say, would you have time for a coffee after-"
"Nope," she interjected. "I should starting heading to that RARCom-hosted physics conference right now and then I have my private shuttle scheduled to take me back to Trattoria. It was nice meeting you, though."
"How about a good-night hug?" Rogers asked.
"How about a hearty handshake," Dr. Miyako replied, extending her hand.
"Figures I can't ask for too much on our first day." Professor Rogers conceded to himself, accepting the hand. "Oh, and happy Valentines Day," he added.
Dr. Miyako tilted her head in confusion.
"Never mind then," Rogers dismissed. As Dr. Miyako turned and left, Rogers clenched his fist and muttered to himself.
"I don't care if it's a biological impossibility, or that RbT was cured and neutralized. There has to be a way to recover that loving minifig interred in you, and I will find it no matter the cost or how many deals with BrikThulhu I have to make."