A/N : This is something I literally started five/six-ish years ago that I never finished. However, lucky for it, I did make an outline. (This is exceptionally rare for me, as I tend to write by the tips of my fingers, as it were.) One of my resolutions – that will never be met – is to start to finish stories I start.
I'm also going to take this moment to apologize for some of the following chapters, which shall be very annoyingly short. I personally hate it when "chapters" are hardly a few paragraphs long, but I want the reader to experience the same jarring as Ro. And, since I'm posting it all at once, hopefully it will not be too annoying.
Disclaimer: The Zeta Project and all adjoining characters are copyright to the respected individuals and companies (WB, creators, etc), no disrespect was meant in the writing of this story, and no copyright infringement was intended. Any coincidence to any event, real or fictional, was unintentional.
By, Kim Hoppy
Wave-Particle Duality: A fundamental concept of quantum
theory, which states waves
can behave like particles and particles can behave like waves.
Light (electromagnetic radiation) can be thought of as either a wave or a particle,
but never as both at the same time.
There were few things Zee took an active interest in. Correction: there were a few normal things Zee took an interest in. Although he was always processing information at the speed of light, there were several things he truly enjoyed to watch and learn. Of course, what Zee found interesting was usually the direct opposite of what Ro thought the subject was, but the girl had to give him credit for trying. Snow globes, flowers, and glass miniature were fine for little old ladies in their rockers and blue-veined hands, but hardly things a former Infiltration Unit should be interested in. It was the ultimate irony, in effect. Yet Ro had slowly discovered that Zee actively—in his own non-interactive way—tried to discover things. On top of his list was, of course, humans. Humans were his little hobby, something he enjoyed to study and hypothesize, usually incorrectly, about. Of course, by studying humans, it didn't make the synthoid human, much in the same way that an entomologist doesn't suddenly become an ant or butterfly after years of patient and boring study. No matter how close the imitation or how deep the study, Zee was always going to be a synthoid, just like the scientist was never going to be the bug. He accepted that, but that didn't mean he didn't continue to study and learn about the vast variety of human cultures.
A passing interest had been religion, but Zee soon lost that interest due to the lack of concrete evidence and areas of grey, Ro thought. It wasn't as if he just stopped learning about it, no, but he stopped going to seminars and speeches because whomever he asked questions to could never give him satisfactory answers. And any answers he got were usually contradictory to some other information he had absorbed. She couldn't give him any good answers either, due to her own lack of understanding and knowledge of the religions. And so Zee had turned to quietly reading little articles here and there, disappointed that such an important field of human culture was so abstract.
A little time after Zee had started that hobby, Ro had asked him what he believed. She thought he surely must favor one system over the other, but Zee had surprised her by saying he believed in his own system. As to what that was, Ro was left in the dark, for Zee was as well.
"And what system is that, Zee?"
His face was blank. "I haven't figured that out yet, Ro. But if would like, I can tell you when I do find out."
She signed up for that appointment. Ro just had to hear what Zee would finally choose, because maybe then she could decide if what she believed was right as well. Whatever innocent Zee thought was right, it was bound to be better than hers.
Zee had currently taken up philosophy, so long as he didn't spout off any at her, Ro ordered. It wasn't quite along the lines of the meaning of life or why am I here, for apparently Zee thought he knew the answers to those questions. Instead the synthoid had turned to pondering about life and what was beyond, not in a religious aspect, but in the Robert Frost method of I chose the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. For some unfathomable reason Zee thought it remarkable that humans would pretend to think their lives would be so much different, so much better, if they had done that one little thing different. He understood little choices like going left or right would provide different outcomes, with one probably more enjoyable than the other, but it confused and almost amused him that humans could believe their lives would be so much different if they had, say, oatmeal for breakfast that one day, or the fact that their lives were filled with the should-haves and ifs and what if I had done that? He didn't understand the dwelling on the past, and it intrigued him.
Ro thought it was boring as hell. All she did was dwell on the past. And she was on the silent opinion that Zee did dwell on the past, every time he failed to meet his own expectations. Surely he had to think "What if I had been faster?" or something along those lines. Self-doubt and guilt were not just human traits, but synthoid—well, at least Zee-traits as well. He was just starting to recognize it, maybe.
Anyway, Ro humored him along with him little eccentrics, let him have his fun. There wasn't any reason not to. In any case, Zee usually fell out actively pursuing knowledge from any human sub-culture once the basic knowledge was met and he couldn't find anyone to answer any of his questions. Eventually his toddler attention span would drift to more interesting areas, like clothes, music, and food, perhaps. And hey, Ro would welcome him there with open arms once he got to that high point of humanism. It was only a matter of time.
Of course, while on the motorcycle and en route to a talk about a current interest, Ro also had to be violently reminded that until Zee got to that point of refinement and progress of human civilization, his current interests were going to be dull, painful, and stupid. And that she was going to have to go along with him and sit through all the dull, painful, and stupid ideas someone with half a brain would never, ever sit through.
When was Zee going to get interested in clothes?
" . . . although Matin's theory is hardly verifiable and is most definitely arguable, it does present a variety of interesting postulates and an infinite number of possibilities one may wish to explore . . ."
"Ro," Zee whispered, nudging his sleeping companion.
"Mh huh?" Ro mumbled rather loudly, getting a few shushes from around her. "What, Zee?" she asked rubbing her eyes.
He looked down at her, the concern evident but not visible on his face. "Do you want to leave, Ro?"
"What? Noooo . . . ooooh, my god, was I drooling?!"
"Yes," Zee said solemnly, watching as she rubbed her chin and then his arm where her head had been resting. "It will dry, Ro."
"I was drooling!"
The synthoid didn't understand her upset, still looking at her intently. "If you don't find this entertaining, we can go back to the hotel and you can sleep there if you're tired," he whispered.
"No, Zee, this is totally entertaining," she said somewhat sarcastically. "Nothing is more exciting that Martin's theory of basic parallel bars and mirrors."
"Matin, Ro," Zee corrected quietly. "And his theory is of—"
"Shh, Zee, people are trying to listen to Dr. Likes to Hear His Voice."
Zee looked at her for a moment longer, then looked ahead again as Dr. Ledonard continued his interpretation of Matin. His eyes drifted to the corners of his eyes when Ro slouched down. "Ro, are you sure . . ."
"Yes, Zee." She straightened up in her seat and tried to look studious. "You wanted to go to this, so I'm going to sit here and listen. You can even quiz me afterwards."
He appeared dubious and with some reluctance said, "Okay."
Once Ro saw that his attention was truly diverted from her and back to the boringest topic in the universe, she slouched back down and crossed her arms, going cross-eyed as she tried not to yawn again. Wasn't this thing almost done? When she agreed to go with Zee to this lecture, Ro hadn't thought it was going to be solong . . . and boring. Very boring. Her butt hurt a lot. Her neck had a strain. And they weren't even in the back of the pit! If they were going to leave, everyone would see them.
" . . . blah, blah, blah . . .," she breathed, not understanding the terminology that the PhD was using. What was wrong with little words? Little, English words?
"Ro?" Zee asked, his hearing picking up her additional commentary and drawing his attention back at her.
"I was commenting on the dual personalities," Ro said quickly, the only thing she actually remembered the doctor saying. "He said something about them."
"Yes. Almost forty-five minutes ago. He is now speaking of the possibility of transmutation of the interloping and cross realities in the terms of simple loops and physics, in which one should destroy the said field of reality A with the addition of reality B because the possible aversion to the foreign matter, yet strangely enough that even though the realities are crossed almost every moment, the probability of any reality becoming endangered is next to 0."
"So I'm slow," Ro hissed defensively.
"You are not slow, Ro," he said quietly, both in manner and in tone. "That was the point in which you had fallen asleep."
Ro glared at him and slouched further down. "Not that I'm bored, but how much longer?" She hoped that the whine hadn't fled into her voice.
"It will end in approximately 1 hour, 38 minutes, provided nothing distracts the doctor."
I'm never getting out of here, Ro moaned to herself, rolling her head back and staring at the ceiling. Even that was more interesting than whatever the orator was going on about. It hadtiles you could count. Everyone understood counting, but not everyone understood Matin. And Ro was obviously one of those people. Perhaps Zee could explain it to her later. Wait, what was she thinking? There was no way she was going to sit through this junk twice.
Smacking her lips and wishing her mouth wasn't so dry, Ro rolled her head sideways. The people next to her, other than giving her a disapproving look and frown, said nothing and continued to stare ahead. All around her people in the packed pit auditorium were avidly listening to Dr. Ledonard. She could even see some people taking notes, of all things. Scrolls and scrolls of it on their pad screens, and it held Ro in sick fascination for a few moments as she tried to imagine even listening and comprehending to that much. There was no one her age, nor anyone younger, most obviously. Everyone was either rather old and smart looking, a college Ed taking notes for class (Ro briefly wondered if they were forced to come, as some looked to be having as much fun as her), or nerdy individuals with thick rimmed glasses shaking their heads and lips moving silently as if arguing. Ro frowned especially at them. They had better not ask questions at the end. Zee would want to sit through them, and probably ask his own questions.
Another thing about the audience was that they were dressed nice. Ro had assumed—very wrongly—that her faded jeans, squeaky shoes, and black microchip shirt would be okay to listen to some guy spew words, but her eyes had widened when they actually arrived. Everyone was in Sunday best or similar, or at least lacking in jeans and worn shoes. She stood out like a sore thumb, everyone noticed her. Zee, damn him and his wardrobe, blended in perfectly in all his Infiltration Unit glory. Ro had almost demanded that he holograph her a different wardrobe, but the thought of having to explain to him why stopped her. She was tough Rosalie Rowan; she bowed to no one. Things like people staring at her wardrobe did not embarrass her.
But, of course, being fifteen years old and a girl pointed their evidence the other way.
Ro turned her attention back to their PhD speaker as he started to show the inconsistency of variable dimensions of reality A toreality B with complex formulas and diagrams. In an effort to understand them, Ro pressed her lips and tilted her head as she tried to follow the arrows and numbers and letters. It made no sense to her, like Alphabet soup and noodles spread on a plate. Zee, on the other hand, appeared to fully understand.
She threw her head back again and slouched, eyes focusing on the ceiling and something she could understand. One tile, two tile, three tile, four tile, five . . .
"Please don't tell me you enjoyed that, Zee," Ro moaned when they finally trudged out amidst a throng of people. For once Zee apparently didn't have any questions he wished to give the PhD, and hence cause the poor man to decide on a different field lest more people like Zee turned up. Or he was being nice to her. Quite frankly, Ro didn't care as long as they were out of there.
Zee smiled at his young companion. "I found it very interesting, Ro, thank you for asking. What did you think?"
"It was very long," she said deadpan. "Too long."
"You did not have to come with me," Zee said simply, contrite that she found it less than pleasant. "You knew it was going to be long, although I'm sorry you didn't find it as interesting as I did."
They had started to walk into the dusking night, and Ro kicked a stone. "You made it sound interesting, Zee. He totally slaughtered it."
"Ah. Yes, he did favor theorems and formulas over a far simpler or interactive method," he agreed after a moment of thought. "I should have known you would not have been interested for very long."
"Are you saying I have a short attention span?"
"Ro, you were merely one of three hundred seventy-two people that had fallen asleep at some point of the speech. I do not think your attention span is an issue on this subject," he said, not actually answering the question and staring straight ahead.
"I didn't see that many people sleeping," she said shrewdly, somewhat insulted.
"Because you were asleep."
Ro rolled her eyes. "Of course."
"Are you hungry?"
"I could do with a burger," Ro agreed. "So tell me, what did you think of the theory?"
Zee took a while to process his answer, almost to the point where Ro wanted to retract the question. "It was very . . . human."
"So you don't believe it's true?"
"It is a theory of his philosophy, Ro. It might very well be true, although more likely it is . . . wishful thinking?" He pondered if that was the right word choice, then nodded absently.
"But do you believe it is?" she pressed.
He looked down at her. "I think . . . it would be nice if it was true, but . . ." He struggled over his words, trying to reason that even though it wasn't possible, if it was, how he would process it.
"You'd be upset you got this lot in life?" Ro tried. That's what she had gotten out of it, at least when Zee present his shorter, more Ro-friendly version. Dr. Ledonard's merely proved a case of cruel and unusual punishment and needed to be shot.
He shook his head. "I would not be upset, Ro."
Liar, she thought mentally with a smirk. "But . . ."
Zee looked at her with blank puzzlement. "But what, Ro?"
"Wouldn't you be just a teeny bit jealous?" she asked, holding her thumb and forefinger apart by a small gap.
"Of what, Ro? Myself?"
"I don't know. Would you?"
"Yeah, I think so, Zee, if what ole Matin said is even true. I mean, they say everyone is supposed to have a twin in the world, but I've never met mine, so that might not be true, and that theory's been around forever."
"Perhaps she has not been born yet," Zee suggested.
"Perhaps your twin will be born when you are older."
She sighed, not bothering to say that the point of the idea was that the person was supposed to be the exact same age. "Maybe. Or maybe she's already really old and I'm actually her twin."
Ro paused into her step, cursing at what Zee had dragged her into. "We're reading too much into that saying, Zee."
"Yes, we are."
He appeared to give this thought, then said, "We were merely commenting on the unlikelihood that your twin would look exactly like you in every respects."
"Exactly. Reading way too much into it."
Ro leaned against the hotel wall, staring up into the sky. Light pollutions and other forms of haze blocked the stars in most of the cities they visited, an even this one didn't offer the view she had often seen in the country from the backseat of a car, but it was close. The stars were visible, at least, as much as they ever were, tiny pinpricks through indigo-black construction paper. She looked up at the odd patterns that were supposed to make men, lions, bears, and fish and only saw dots. It frustrated her.
Was that how Zee saw the world, like how she tried to see ancient pictures in the skies? In the old times were the pictures so obvious that even children could point of the heavenly portrayals and give their names? What was so obvious to her, did Zee only see it as a random smattering of dots with lines that made vague stick figures? It would clear up a lot, perhaps, make it so Ro could even forgive his naiveté and questions.
Her heel kicked the wall. No, perhaps not. That was asking a lot.
The stars were pretty to look at. That didn't make them any less the enigma or any closer. Still distant and cold, surrounded in a vacuum of emptiness, isolated from everything. That was Zee in a mean, little nutshell. Zee, the star. Hmm . . . a nice, if sobering thought, if you remembered that probably half the stars in the sky were dead now, or black holes, sucking everything towards them, slowly streaming them out into a fine ribbon, down to the center like water down a drain, into a mass, crushing little ball of darkness . . . and perhaps even a tunnel to the other side. A black hole to a white hole, navigating, slicing the universe into one nice, easy detour. Breaking all the rules, making its own, doing whatever black holes did, not destroying, but giving the option to escape, if you have the strength, the power, the speed. If you could really survive in the world, the oppressing gravity, being stretched thin.
Such was life. Life was a black hole. You start out so bright, then feel yourself getting stretched, growing thin, things getting dark. If you were lucky, you broke out the other end. If not, you stayed smashed and were destroyed without malice.
"Okay, Rowan, no more philosophical speeches for you," she said with a small chuckle. Introspecting was Zee's job, one she severely wanted to leave to him. Life was complicated enough, then to throw into being hunted by NSA and traveling with a renegade synthoid just sent it around the bend. If she were to start philosophizing regularly, Ro thought she might just scream.
Stars were just stars, distant observers to history. Nothing more, nothing less. Big balls of gas burning billions of miles away. Here or anywhere else in the universe or dream or whatever people wished to try and change their scope to, as star would just be a star. It didn't pay to think otherwise. Sure, somewhere you could be super-rich, but right here, right here you were as poor as dirt and starving. Somewhere you might have a family and friends that care about you, but right here you were fighting the dogs for your next meal, as it were.
It didn't matter what you were somewhere else, sometime else. All that mattered is what you were here. If you were rich, hey, you won the coin toss. If not, tough on you. Ro couldn't understand the point in believing that somewhere there was an anti-you, someone who was the direct opposite in every respect, because everything had to have an opposite to be in sync. Yin and Yang, black and white, up and down, in or out. That somewhere there was a Ro who had a wonderful family, all alive and caring, in a cool school getting ready to make something of her life, going out with normal guys, listening to the latest gossip, being normal.
If this Ro ever met that Ro, Ro hoped she'd be holding some sort of weapon. Nothing too deadly, of course. A bucket of water would be nice. Actually, it would have to be that way, if everything was opposite. Good, good.
Of course, Ro was never going to meet this lucky twin or whatever, because she didn't exist, and if she did, it was on a plane that Ro had no way of reaching. And that Ro was certainly very lucky in this respect.
Ro paused in the inspection of this impossible theory to the one she had just learned of today. Matin, from what she had been awake for, had supported none of this. His was even more radical, something you'd think would have been created during the Renaissance Age. But no, Matin was a New Ager, died in his early twenties, gaining interest after someone posthumously published his theory. Zee had told her on the way up that Matin actually wrote the paper as his Philosophy final for college. After hearing it, Ro bet he would have failed. No teacher in his or her right mind would pass off such frivolity, and Matin had probably written the whole the night before it was due.
"What are you doing, Ro?"
She jumped at Zee stealthy intrusion and whirled to hit him in the arm. "Don't do that! You scared me!"
He appeared duly shamefaced. "I'm sorry, Ro. You had been gone for so long that I was wondering what you were doing."
"Just . . . looking at the stars, Zee," she said, not wishing to say she had been delving into the areas of twins and parallels. Not only was it something she truly didn't want to think of, but Zee would be interested and start his own crude hypothesizing.
"Ah." He looked up as well, quiet, probably seeing all of the constellations Ro had no chance of finding, save for the Big Dipper. Now that was a constellation. Strange, when you think about it; he could understand all of the archaic things and none of the new stuff, and she could understand all of the hip things and none of the old. Opposites in balance.
"So you were worried about me? Thought I was getting into trouble?"
He didn't look down. "Yes, I was worried. Trouble usually has a way of finding us."
"No, it finds you." She poked him in the chest stoutly. "I'm merely along for the ride."
At that Zee looked down. "And the 'ride' is very dangerous, Ro."
Don't you dare tell me that you think I should stop following you and go somewhere safe, because I won't! Don't you even think about it, Zee! Ro thought mentally, but only accented her thoughts by glaring meaningfully. Whether or not Zee got the message, Ro didn't know for sure, but he didn't go into that line of conversation.
"The stars are lovely, though," he said conversationally, looking back up.
"Just dots in the sky, Zee," Ro said dismissively, leaning against him instead of the wall. Zee said things like that, conversation starters or things people say when there's nothing else to say. It was probably in his programming. Whether or not he actually believed it would be like asking a guy striking up a conversation with a beautiful woman if the weather really was nice lately.
"Perhaps, but many humans like to look at them. Like you were just doing."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever," she grouched. "I can stand dealing with boring things."
"Yes, you can." He paused for a moment. "Thank you for behaving at the lecture. I know it must have been difficult for you," he said awkwardly, as if knowing that that wasn't the right way to broach the subject, but oblivious to how to correctly state his gratitude.
"No problem, Zee. Next time, though, we sit in the back."
"Better view," she supplied, lying slightly. Or, the easier to leave without being noticed.
"A better view? Surely sitting closer to the . . . "
Ro sighed. "Zee . . ."
He smiled slightly, submitting. "Very well, Ro. Next time we shall sit in the very last row."
"Next to an aisle," she added quickly.
"Next to an aisle," he agreed.
Ro smiled like the cat that had gotten the cream, relaxing against Zee's frame. She felt his arms go around her waist to keep her upright. "Good."
"Yes. So that way you can leave without feeling embarrassed."
Again, Ro jumped in surprise and looked up at her companion. If she was the cat who had gotten the cream, it was Zee who was the one who had been given the key to the entire company.
"No, Zee, that's not why," she lied, feeling her cheeks flame.
Zee smiled down at her briefly, then looked back up at the stars. "Of course not, Ro. As you said, it is merely for a better view. It is like looking at stars: the further away the better."
She rested her arms on his, looking back up into the heavens. "Depends on the star, Zee."