Raj had played a prank on the boys, of course. He was no closer to talking with women than the day he discovered that a grasshopper could loosen his tongue. But there was the sister exception, and Matilda W. Honey was practically a sister.
Matilda privately thought that Raj knew he had no chance of sexual involvement with her, so he was able to speak. And she did genuinely like a good prank-a talent developed in early childhood as an outlet for genius level talent-so fooling his friends was a fun way to introduce herself to the States.
She had come over that evening with homemade pad thai, plenty of peanut sauce, and Raj had supplied a decent bottle of California Chardonnay. Dinner conversation included a lot of laughing over Sheldon's antics during the seminar, of which Matilda had been the guest lecturer.
"His face, Raj! Has he never been corrected before? Really?"
"Yes, but he usually freezes until he reboots."
Chuckling, Matilda took another bite of her sorbet. "What a character...but he's the one you want me to help, isn't he?"
Raj flipped from amused to sober. "Yeah...I just don't know..."
Gently, Matilda asked, "What happened?
"I need more wine."
Another bottle of wine later, and Raj had shared the whole tale of the North Pole. Sheldon's excitement, the gang's inclusion, the bitter cold, Sheldon's insanity in close quarters, his disappointment in lack of results, the plotting, the can opener, and his behavior post-trip.
"Honestly, Mat, the man's always been a robot. But now he just keeps working and working...and he's making progress, but it isn't enough anymore. And now my karma's kicked in, and I'm going to be kicked out..."
"Hold on-kicked out?"
Raj signed. "My research on trans-Neptunian objects-"
Matilda interrupted, "Wait, you're still working on that? I emailed you months ago that..."
"I was running towards a dead end? I couldn't accept it. So I just played Mindsweeper and edited Wikipedia articles instead."
"You mean you messed them up."
"Well, duh. So, my karma's catching up with me, and you're really good at fixing my karma for me!" Raj flashed a bright smile at Matilda, who wore a slight smirk.
"So, you want me to dig your friend-"
"-cyborg buddy from a career slump? When you're going to be going back to India?"
"Well, maybe something will turn up!"
"There are limits to my abilities, Raj."
"Sure. How is the Force coming along."
Silence. Matilda had gone stone faced.
Concerned, Raj took her hand and asked, "That bad?"
Matilda shuddered, then replied in a low tone, "Yes. Ever since..."
Raj sqeezed her hand. "That really sucks. You have awesome karma. I'm so..."
Matilda pulled her hand away. "You know Raj, I'm tired of the sorries. I'd just like to move on to something else. That helps the Force best anyway. Which...is why I've accepted a guest lecturer job with Caltech. Maybe figuring out your friend-"
"Your friend and his research will distract the Force. Besides, you're on the Pacific!"
"I'm not getting in a boat with you."
Matilda grinned. "You say that now, but just wait..."
The next day at lunch, Raj was treated to a chorus of complaining. The subject of said complaining was missing work due to a meeting with a potential new colleague.
"You missed the grand mother of all nights, jerk." Howard stated, while stabbing a piece of leftover brisket with a force clearly meant for a living victim. "The man would not stop griping and complaining and just plain bitching about the fact that he was wrong for once."
Raj shrugged. "Well, he was wrong. Matilda proved that pretty clearly in her response. No question about it."
Leonard munched on some salad, then asked, "Yeah, Matilda. How did you talk to her at lunch yesterday? I'd like to know, considering the stakes."
Raj went defensive. "Hey, I won fair and square. You never demanded full disclosure."
Leonard paused, and then shrugged. "Whatever. I was just curious."
Raj stirred his yougurt, then said, "Matilda and I were childhood buddies. She visited like the English colonialists of old, only she didn't try to put India under her thumb."
Howard wasn't convinced. "So, you can talk to her because you both played with Barbies as kids?"
"Hey! She wasn't into Barbies! More pulling pranks on my sister's Barbie dolls.
"You have a sister?!"
"Sure, Howard. I just don't want her skeezed up by you. And she's kinda a intercontinental plane flight away at the moment."
Howard paused, then replied, "Fair enough. Not even cyber sex?"
Raj responded with, "Uh, NO!"
Leonard, who had been searching on his phone, brought the conversation back on track. "So, Matilda...she's not that old to be traveling around giving lectures. And Dr. Honey has been publishing for a while. What's up with that?"
Raj, ever so casually, said, "Oh. She's a child genius."
Twin exclamations, followed by identitcal "Whats?" and an additional "There are two cyborgs?!" from Howard.
Raj snorted. "Nah, guys. She's cool. She just was very very smart very early on, and went to college as a kid. She travels around a lot too-she doesn't like staying in one place very long. She gets antsy. But she's going to be here for a while because..."
And at that moment a very irate Sheldon and a beaming Matilda walked up to their table. As Sheldon was pouting, Matilda announced,
"I'm so pleased to meet everyone! I've heard so much from Raj about you all-only via email and Skype of course-and I'm going to be working with Dr. Cooper on his next few mathematical models, particularly of annihilation spectrum resulting from dark matter collisions in space. And reviewing research data from his recent travels at the top of the world. It is just so nice to meet everyone! We have to do dinner sometime!"
The three boys were frozen, except for Raj, who responded warmly to Matilda's enthusiasm for meeting three complete dorks.