6

Dr. Harway's office is on the fourth floor of the engineering building. My meeting with him is at noon, and I arrive there a quarter till. "Do things fifteen minutes early," he always says. I remember how when I had him freshman and sophomore year he would always drill that into me when I got to class on time or only five minutes before. When I reach the front door, I find it slightly open, so I go inside.

Lorenzo Ignacio Harway—recipient of two doctorate degrees in computer and software engineering from MIT before age thirty, and designer of the Copernicus star cataloging program. He's a lanky man of Spanish descent, with short, trim black hair and gray-green eyes hidden behind a set of thick glasses. He always dresses like he was running late in the morning, with his white dress shirt, yellow tie, and gray slacks with suspenders looking disheveled. Right now, Dr. Harway is doing some work at his whiteboard.

And by that, I mean he's running back and forth between three whiteboards and writing some incomprehensible equations on all of them. His office isn't even really an office. It's more like a laboratory, with dozens of computers lying around, all displaying different sets of data—data that probably only makes sense to him.

"Dr. Harway," I call out, "I'm here."

"Yes, yes, I know," he replies quickly. Another thing about him is that he always talks like a machine gun. It could have something to do with the thermos of espresso he drinks every morning and afternoon. "Fifteen minutes ahead of schedule. Very good, you've learned well."

"Um, should I come back later, sir? It looks like you're in the middle of something."

"No, no, it's fine. I'm just finishing up a few algorithms with which I can design that new model of quantum computer I told you about during the last meeting. It's shouldn't take me more than, oh say, 300 seconds or so. Ah, do close the door behind you. I don't want the noise of the corridors coming in here or some philistine bothering me with pointless questions."

The supposed reason Dr. Harway decided to teach here instead of at his alma mater is because he got annoyed with the, in his words, "narrow-minded and uninspired mindsets of engineers that fail to see the beauty of four dimensions." I think he just got pissed off at the other professors for not getting his…eccentricities. Anyway, I close the office door, and before I finish turning around, I see Dr. Harway sitting at his desk, looking at me neutrally.

"So, how goes the research?" he asks.

That was a lot faster than 300 seconds…I think.

"It's progressing well," I say while bobbing my head. "I recently acquired a key piece of equipment I needed to test some of my theories."

"In other words, you've finally gotten a Dea of your own."

I stagger back. How did he know that?

"Oh come now," Dr. Harway smirks, "did you really think I couldn't figure it out? Your vague reports did little to hide that fact that you were essentially composing a survey of Deae minds. The other philistines on your committee didn't notice, but the questions and approaches you outlined in your prospectus address the very philosophy behind Dea design."

Damn, he is good…

"I suppose you think my whole thesis is a joke now," I sigh. To my surprise, though, Dr. Harway just smiles at me. I don't think I've ever seen him do that outside of explaining his latest theories. What does it mean that he's doing it now…?

"Of course not," he laughs. Now, that is freaky. "I actually find it rather refreshing. You wish to set out in a field of science that academia refuses to acknowledge. You wish to walk the border of real and artificial life and determine that there is no such line. As a scientist, how could I not find that noble?"

I think he's romanticizing this, but it sounds like he's on board with my plan.

"Now, I assume you've already started contemplating your analysis metrics?"

"Yes, I have, sir. While Ibuki is at home I plan to make notes about her behavior and preferences."

"So her name is Ibuki, eh?"

Oops…

"Y-Yes, it is…"

"Do you think she's cute?"

Did he seriously just ask me that?

"Y-Yes… She's one of the cutest girls I've ever met."

Dr. Harway laughs to himself. Ugh, I feel like an idiot.

"How wonderfully droll," he chuckles. "Man attracted to the artificial lifeform He created; it's like Pygmalion."

Why do I keep getting compared to literary characters?

"And I suppose you're planning on doing that whole Goddesses' Quarter business?"

"Yes…"

This time, Dr. Harway snorts in mild disapproval. "I see," he mutters. "And surely you didn't choose that path of cheap bloodsport for fame or some other petty reason?"

After hearing that, I feel ashamed to say, "I needed the money, is all."

"Hmm… I can't say I'm too pleased to hear that, but basic needs are basic needs. But tell me; was it your friend Mr. Jackson who put you up to this?"

Dr. Harway knows about Doug because we both had his class freshman year. He always acknowledged Doug's mechanical talent, but would look down on him for the way he carried himself and how lackadaisical he seemed to take his studies. At some point, Dr. Harway probably saw Neris with Doug around campus, and that probably solidified his opinion of Doug as a talented engineer with crude tastes. I wonder if he'll see me the same way now.

"I figured as much," he snorts. "The boy can craft wonders that would put the great designers to shame, but he would rather satisfy himself with his toys. I assume you've been helping him with his project?"

"From time to time; I mostly just troubleshoot his code."

"A fine friend you are, and I'm sure you'll be a fine Master to your Dea too," Dr. Harway smiles. "However, since you will be competing in the battle portion of things as well, your time will likely be scarce, what with traveling and training and all. I say, to do something so time-consuming on top of your graduate studies…you are to be admired for your dedication, Mr. Nagato. Therefore, as your mentor, I shall do what I can to support this new avenue of your project.

"Thank you, sir."

"To that end, you are hereby relieved of your teaching assistant duties."

"Huh?"

He DOES know that I haven't started earning money through this yet, right?

"How exactly would that benefit me, sir?" I ask cautiously. In a flippant tone, Dr. Harway replies, "Well, you'll need all the time you can get, right? Why waste your time and talents dealing with the mundaneness of undergraduate flops and pleas for acknowledgment when you have bigger fish to fry, so to speak?"

"I get what you're saying, sir, but this is my only source of income."

"But soon you'll have a better one."

"Yes, but not yet."

"Do you have so little faith in your abilities? I imagine someone like you would find success rather quickly."

I give up; this is going nowhere. I appreciate the vote of confidence, but that doesn't do anything for my immediate problems.

"Well, I suppose I should be going then, sir," I say as I get up to leave. "I have to figure out my next course of action now…"

Apparently, what I said went in one ear and out the other. Dr. Harway has his nose buried in his studies again, and judging by the distant look in his eyes, he doesn't even know I'm still here. Well, that makes leaving simple…in a way. I close the door behind me, and then quickly crash my cranium into the concrete corridor circling me, cursing the changes wrought unto me by circumstance.