The principle of causality is a basic one; fairly easy to understand. Plainly stated, causality means that nothing exists in a vacuum. Every event, object, idea--everything in the universe that has ever been or will ever be--must have i some /i causal factor outside itself that led to its creation. (Philosophers have been pondering this one since before the birth of Christ.)

I use causality every day in my work. I ask a student who plays a wrong chord, what exactly made that chord wrong? Inevitably, it's a flat that should have been sharp, or a B-natural where there should have been a C, something to that effect.

Cause: The wrong note is played.
Effect: The chord sounds wrong.

Causality.

(You can take the music teacher out of the math lab, but you can't take the math geek out of the music teacher.)

Aside from its uses in teaching gifted young musicians to play Chopin, causality has taken on a rather meaningful place in my life. As I sit here, in this toy factory that is not a toy factory, with two nasty-looking thugs pointing guns at my head while a supposedly dead genius tries to convince my ex-boyfriend (we are so not getting back together) to turn over a stolen device that could literally take over the world, I find that I am extremely interested in the principle of causality.

As in, how the hell did I wind up here?

The trouble with causality is that it can be a little tricky. Precedence does not necessarily indicate causality. In other words, just because one event follows another doesn't necessarily mean that the former caused the latter. Example. I call my mother. We get into a fight. My mother wrecks her car after getting off the phone with me. While I may be inclined to think that my actions (getting into a fight with her) were the cause of the event, that's not necessarily true. There could have been a rainstorm that decreased visibility and made the road more dangerous. Another driver could have cut her off, causing her to swerve off the road and into that ditch. Any one (or several) of these factors could have caused the wreck. Or it could have been something completely unrelated to these events.

See? That's the trouble with causality.

And still I sit, watching Cosmo arguing with Marty over the phone while Thug #2 stares with increasing interest at the way my sweater fits across my chest. And I can't help but review the process that led to this moment. There was the Date from Hell, v. 2. There was that ugly voice-activated dog. There was my own stupidity for having my actual ID in my wallet, and for not taking my damned purse upstairs with me when I tried to call Crease for an update on Marty's progress.

And while we're at it, we should examine my decision to let Marty and his "boys club" use my condo for their work, a serious lapse of judgment on my part. (I blame Marty. It's those enormous blue eyes. How can you say no to blue eyes? I blame his mother, for letting that damned recessive gene get through.)

In fact, I'm fairly certain I can bring this all the way back through the party at their "lair" (where Crease decided I was a security leak), via Janek's lecture, to the day I let Marty's sorry ass through the door of my studio.

And still, I can go back further. Causality is like that--ask any Greek philosopher.

Back several years. Back when I was still killing my soul crunching numbers for BioTech InfoSystems. Back when some overpaid MBA decided EuroProgress Corp. wanted our new gene mapping technology (which never got patented, by the way), and hired the god Hermes himself to test our security system.

Funny thing about the god Hermes. He's the god of communication, the god of lawyers, and the god of thieves.

He can lie through his teeth to you, and leave you charmed and breathless for another story.

Didn't help that Hermes chose a blond-haired, blue-eyed, sensitive man by the name of Martin Bishop to do his mischief in my life. Didn't help that Marty could charm the pants off of anyone…off of me, that is. Didn't help that Martin had this horrible past, this dangerous life, this secret….hidden…truth about him.

I blame Hermes.

I blame the gods.

Before I knew it, I was seeing Marty. I was helping his cronies, Crease and Karl and Whistler and Mother, analyze numbers. I sweet-talking my way past security guards and flirting with strangers while they snuck their way from mediocre job to mediocre job.

And I was loving it. Martin kept my libido happy, and the Sneakers kept my mind busy. It was fun, this dangerous sexy underground life they brought me into.

And then it wasn't. Then I started seeing the truth under the glamour, the sifting through garbage, the lying, the risking your life for a pittance.

The first time I had a gun pointed at my head, I knew I'd miscalculated. Marty and I were posing as a married couple (fat chance) trying to get a loan from this bank they'd hired on to sneak. Turns out the guy we were watching had been embezzling funds from the bank, and decided we were Federal agents out to catch him.

Hermes fairly channeled through Marty that day, with copious help from Crease and Whistler and Mother over the headset. Somehow, somehow, we talked our way out of there.

Hermes?

Thug #2 keeps staring at my tits, and his buddy would rather shoot me than look at me. Cosmo has convinced Marty to turn himself in, mainly by pulling the old "your girlfriend's hot and I have her in my clutches" routine. (God, can't any of these losers come up with a better angle?)

If you're gonna help Marty, now would be the time.

After the first gun-in-my-face incident, I broke up with Marty.

It lasted three months.

Then he came in with some massive number crunching no-one in his group could handle, and as I'm the only mathematician they know (and can trust), of course good old Liz comes to the rescue again.

I broke my wrist on that job, and Marty and I broke up again. After he took me to Palm Springs with his cut of the earnings. And had sex with me for three days.And made me forget about my wrist hurting and my bills mounting because I quit my job at BioTech and went back to music (because Marty made me remember about dreams and all that romantic bullshit.) I went with him to Palm Springs and let him seduce me with those damned recessive-gene eyes and let him make me think there could be a future for us.

Like he did this time.

Like he always does.

He came to me in my studio, dangling his freedom in front of me like a carrot dangling from a stick. The ultimate causality, the one thing I will do it for.

A chance to love him. Like a normal person, with his real name, our real life together.

I am a first class chump.

So here I am. Blaming the gods, waiting to die (again!), and wondering how the hell I get Marty…. (Jesus, Freud would have loved me.) Wondering how the hell I get myself out of this mess.

If we get out of here alive, it's going to take a hell of a lot more than Palm Springs and multiple orgasms to make up for this.

If we get out of here alive, I'm through with him.

If we get out of here alive, I will just tell him to go fuck himself. And his Sneakers. And his goddamned carrot on a stick.

And then he walks through the door, and causality strikes again.

Cause: He smiles.

Effect: I smile.

Cause: He asks me how I'm doing.

Effect: I say fine, and ask him the same.

Cause: He is being brave, for both our sakes.

Effect: I realize that I'm brave, too. I realize I'm braver than I ever dreamed of being.

And when Karl comes crashing through the ceiling and all hell breaks loose, I get the feeling I'm in it for the long haul this time.

End