Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "For Whose Sake"

This poem came out of the August 15, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] lone_cat, [personal profile] bairnsidhe, [personal profile] readera, [personal profile] technoshaman, and [personal profile] we_are_spc. It also fills the "safe" square in my 7-31-17 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest. This poem has been chosen in an audience poll as the free epic for the September 5, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl meeting its $200 goal. It belongs to the Kraken thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"For Whose Sake"

Capricorn is fascinated by
computers and code, and
so he notices the people
who make them beautiful.

There's this girl.

One day she waltzed
into a BlackSheep chat about
the open-source operating system
that Kraken had developed for
health nexus management.

Five minutes later, she had
fixed the Anopheles bug that folks
had been trying to kill for a solid month, and
streamlined interdepartmental data
almost as an afterthought.

She's working on
her doctorate thesis
at MIT, which means that
Capricorn can probably prevail
upon his old friend Peter
to arrange a meeting.

Capricorn rarely goes out
in public, but this is worth it.

Peter's office is lined in
warm golden wood and
books of every color.

"Hello, old friend," Peter says as
they shake hands and sit down.
"So I have Alex to thank for
this very uncommon honor?"

"She caught my attention,"
Capricorn says with a nod.

"She catches everyone's attention,"
Peter says. "Those boys from Berkeley
keep sniffing around her, and I have
to beat them off with a stick."

"I can well imagine," Capricorn says,
wondering if Peter needs any help
swinging that stick around.

"Lucky for me, Berkeley is more
into plasma and nonlinear dynamics,"
Peter says. "Alex has been helping me
work the kinks out of my dark matter scanner.
Oh, and that wireless power transmitter that you
went nuts over? The software for it was one of
her independent projects in graduate school."

Capricorn's eyebrows climb. "Impressive.
Does she know she's saved the world a few times?"

"You asked me to be discreet about that,
so no," Peter says. "Alex wouldn't believe it,
anyway. She's very modest young woman."

When she comes in with her arms
full of papers, Capricorn can believe it,
because she's covered from head to toe
in cloth, from a black top with a satin bow-tie
at her throat to a pair of stretch jeans.

She is quite pretty in person,
with blonde hair to her shoulders
that flares in every little breeze,
her blue eyes magnified by
black-framed glasses.

When Capricorn looks at her,
though, he can't help but recall
the incredible beauty of her code.

To him, the inside of Alex's head is
far lovelier than the outside of her skin.

"Alex, this a friend of mine from college,"
Peter says. "We used to call him GoTo."

"Because he's the one everyone always
wants to go to for help?" she says.
"I know that feel, bro."

Capricorn smiles at her.
"I'm sure you do," he says.
"I was quite taken by your solution
to the Anopheles bug, not to mention
your improvement of the data handling."

"Oh, that was nothing," Alex demurs,
tucking her chin against her shoulder.
"I just thought it'd work better that way."

"Indeed it does," Capricorn says.

He takes his time drawing her out,
because Alex is shy and quiet,
but that's okay, since Capricorn
knows how to deal with geeks.

She babbles happily about
Peter's work in dark matter and
compact energy supplies and even
the baby bonsai that she needs
to remember to water today.

"It's a dawn redwood, you know, they're
terraformers as adults but the seedlings
are very delicate," she confides.

"I do know," Capricorn says.
"They're fascinating trees."

Alex chatters about redwoods
and wanting to visit Muir Woods and
large-scale environmental changes
and how she wishes that she could
build a superconducting supercollider
bigger than anything before it.

Capricorn thinks about dark matter,
whose hidden power holds
the universe together.

He thinks about that Jewish tale
of the 36 righteous men for whose sake
the universe is not destroyed, and he
wonders if one might be a woman.

He thinks about Peter's projects and
how useful they are to Kraken, and whether
Alex might be enticed to help out here and there,
which gets Peter going on about his budget.

Somehow they don't even notice that
Alex has slipped out of the room until she
comes back in with an Arc'teryx mug
cupped carefully in her hands.

Startled by the sudden familiar aroma,
Capricorn sits right up in his chair.
There is no mistaking the bright,
citrus-and-sugar scent of
La Tortuga coffee.

Sitting up, he can see into
the cup where the whipped cream
is dotted with edible ink forming
his own constellation, along with
the abstract swoops that mean
safe food in Kraken code.

Alex sets the cup in front
of Capricorn, who wonders
how she knows his preferences.

"You brought him coffee?" Peter squawks.
"But you never want to fetch the coffee!"

Alex just gives Capricorn a shy smile.
"Some people are worth serving coffee to."

* * *


Alex Turing -- She has pale skin, blue eyes, and wheat-blonde hair to her shoulders. She wears nerdy glasses with black frames. She is currently working on her doctorate thesis in quantum physics at MIT. Alex is brilliant with science and computers, but not when it comes to organizing her own life or keeping track of practicalities.
Origin: Alex was born with her superpowers. She is descended from Alan Turing and a Jewish man he once made love to in a dark alley. Alan never knew that he had offspring; but his lover switched surnames, escaped to America, bore a son in secret, and told a partially-true story about the child's other parent having died in the Holocaust. Nobody really asked any questions.
Uniform: Alex wears geeky girl clothes. She is particularly fond of sassy t-shirts and tops that incorporate a bow tie. She is less fond of wearing an actual tie around her neck, but will do it for formal occasions.
Qualities: Master (+6) MIT Doctorate Student, Expert (+4) Asexual, Expert (+4) Humility, Good (+2) Gamer, Good (+2) Geek, Good (+2) Gender Studies
Poor (-2) Absent-minded
Powers: Master (+6) Super-Intellect, Good (+2) Tzaddikeh
Motivation: To keep the multiverse in good repair.

A tzaddik is a sort of petty saint who lives in secret, keeping the world intact just by virtue of his existence. Yiddish uses -e or -eh as a feminine ending, as in alrightnikeh (successful woman).

Peter H. Fisher, Professor of Physics, Department Head, Physics, MIT
Research Interests: Professor Peter Fisher's main activities are the experimental detection of dark matter using a new kinds of detectors. His other interests include wireless power transfer, pedagogical work on electromagnetic radiation, new kinds of particle detectors and bonsai.
Biographical Sketch: Prof. Peter Fisher is a professor in the Physics Department and currently serves as department head. He carries out research in particle physics in the areas of dark matter detection and the development of new kinds of particle detectors. He also has an interest in compact energy supplies and wireless energy transmission. Prof. Fisher received a BS Engineering Physics from Berkeley in 1983 and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics from Caltech in 1988.

* * *

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is generally considered the best school of physics, followed by the University of California--Berkeley. MIT does more with quantum mechanics. Berkeley's interests include plasma and nonlinear dynamics.

Anopheles is a genus of mosquito. The Anopheles bug was a glitch in the software for the biological samples database, which kept losing vital information -- much the way a mosquito sucks blood out of its hapless victims.

In local-America, the Superconducting Super Collider was a particle accelerator planned for the vicinity of Waxahachie, Texas. In Terramagne-America, Alex wants something bigger and better.

Dawn redwood makes a lovely bonsai.

The geekiest cup of coffee comes out of an espresso machine that uses edible ink to write messages. In L-America, the edible ink printer is frequently on the fritz. In T-America, people think it's on the fritz. It's not. It's just talking nerdy to you. Most people can't read the level of nerdy that Alex writes. It has a computerized interface to analyze the brewing process and produce a perfect cup of coffee.

Capricorn is a constellation sometimes represented by a pattern of dots.

The international food-safe symbol is a stylized glass and fork. The Kraken symbol for safe food consists of the inside line from the glass and the outside line from the fork, so it just looks like a random doodle. EDIT 9-30-17: [personal profile] bairnsidhe has rendered the Kraken symbol so now you can see it!

La Tortuga Coffee (Honduras: Citrus, Apple, Light Sugars)
Crystalline transparency and exceptionally sweet, sunny citrus notes characterize this refreshing new harvest gem from the Caballero family.
-- Intelligentsia Coffee

See the Arc'teryx insulated titanium mug.

Sending someone for coffee is a trope, and it illustrates the gender gap. Making this request can be hazardous to your health. However, if a female geek brings you coffee, it means she really likes you.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, cyberspace theory, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, science fiction, weblit, writing
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