A Geneticist in Faerun
Summary: A mathematical impossibility violently transports a scientist to Faerun, where they attempt to make sense of the new world as best they can.
Disclaimer: All non-original ideas, characters, locations, and plot points are copyrighted by Wizards of the Coast.
Prologue: Divide by Zero
The night before Thanksgiving, genetics professor Dr. Lucy Sullivan was behind on a grant proposal for the spring semester, and Dr. Tanya Albrecht, professor of mathematics, was being decidedly unhelpful. The proposed research was on the population genetics of different variations of the TCF7L2 gene, which was shown to have an integral part in the development of Type 2 Diabetes. Because population genetics tended to be heavy with statistics and differential calculus, Dr. Sullivan had invited her mathematician college to assist in the calculations. At 7pm the night before a holiday, Dr. Sullivan was beginning to regret this decision. At that point, all she wanted to do was finish the budget section, meet her husband in the parking lot, and begin the two-hour drive to her in-laws.
"So," began Dr. Sullivan, running a hand over her temple. "I think we can save a lot of money and time if we use our students as test subjects. The only problem is that grabbing from a limited pool could bias the results when we try to apply it to the general population. On the other hand, Type 2 Diabetes is such a common problem that our students may have sufficient genetic variation. What do you think, Tanya? …Tanya?" She looked at her colleague to find her writing a large equation that filled a piece of scrap paper. "Did you even hear what I said?"
"Yeah, use the undergrads as lab rats," agreed Dr. Albrecht.
"What are you even working on?" Dr. Sullivan asked. She was pretty sure planning their budget was not nearly as complicated as the equation Dr. Albrecht was writing.
"My research," said Dr. Albrecht.
"Which is on…?" Dr. Sullivan did not recognize the equation at all.
"Dividing by zero," said Dr. Albrecht.
Dr. Sullivan laughed, thinking it was a joke. "No, really, what is your research?"
Dr. Albrecht gave Dr. Sullivan a hard look.
At this, Dr. Sullivan became frustrated. "Tanya, we've been sitting in this office for three hours, and my husband's been waiting in the parking lot for the last twenty minutes. This proposal is due on Tuesday. Why are you suddenly messing around with mathematical impossibilities?"
"Because if no one ever tested impossibilities, we'd never advance," Dr. Albrecht said. "Until Pythagoras came around, people thought that you couldn't split whole numbers into decimals. And even after that, they didn't believe in irrational numbers. Now we have both."
"But dividing by zero is an absurd concept," said Dr. Sullivan. "Division is, essentially, sorting things into groups. But if you have zero groups, then you can't sort anything. And it's not like you can multiply zero by anything to get the original numerator. It just doesn't work."
"But the numerator still has to go somewhere," said Dr. Albrecht. "It doesn't just disappear." With that, Dr. Albrecht returned her attention to the massive equation in front of her before frowning and crumpling the paper up and reaching for a clean sheet from Dr. Sullivan's printer.
"Tanya, can we please just–"
"Shh, Lucy! I think I have an idea."
Dr. Sullivan made a sigh that sounded like she was trying to suppress a snarl. "All right, if you don't want to talk about this, I'll finish it over the weekend by myself. I'm not going to make Dave wait while you play with imaginary numbers."
"Imaginary numbers are a valid mathematical concept," said Dr. Albrecht, not bothering to look up.
"I know!" Dr. Sullivan snapped as she packed up her laptop. She ran a hand through her hair and tried to calm down. "I know. I'll…see you on Monday."
Dr. Albrecht did not respond. In fact, the only sound was a small whir that began to grow into a roar. Dr. Sullivan looked up to see what the mathematician had done now, only to be faced with a miniature black hole (or, possibly, a small wormhole; Dr. Sullivan was a geneticist, not an astrophysicist, and did not have adequate time to ponder it) right where Dr. Albrecht had been sitting. Dr. Sullivan tried to escape its gravitational pull, but the force pinned her chair (and, effectively, her) to her desk. A storm of textbooks and neglected flower pots flew about the room, and the desk and chair began to warp into the miniature celestial body. Dr. Sullivan tried to grab anything she could to pull herself away, clawing at the walls to find some sort of purchase.
In a second, there was no Dr. Sullivan, no Dr. Albrecht, and no office.