Jane reacted to learning of her new maybe-parents with both eagerness and fear. She was ready to leave Marymount because she’d outgrown it. But she feared it because she would have to leave her friends. And because the new parents might be monsters like in the movies.
A meeting with Bertha and Natalie reassured her. A further meeting with Alex and Malena decided her. Once she decided she stood up from the easy chair she’d been sitting in.
“OK. I like you. Let’s do this.”
“Oh, Jane,” said Malena, standing up and hugging her. “We like you too.”
Alex stood and came to hug his wife and, very tentatively, to put a hand on Jane’s shoulder around his wife’s body.
There was a party at Marymount as there was every time someone left. Tears of joy and sorrow flowed. Promises to keep in touch were exchanged. Then Jane went to her room and packed and hugged her room mate once again.
The Kuznetsovs helped her and her luggage into their car and drove her to her new home.
Jane put her clothing and toiletries away and sat on her bed a minute, looking out the window over the back yard. She wondered who lived next door. She’d find out. It was an interesting thought. Meeting new people. Maybe other girls. Maybe boys. That would be interesting. She’d read a lot about boys, some of it interesting, some of it annoying, some of it disgusting.
She went to sit at her desk. Turned on the computer. It asked her to enter a new id and password. She did so and it came fully alert.
Inside Jane’s brain so did her robot guardian. It inspected the new addition to Jane’s environment closely, then lapsed back to quiet readiness.
Jane explored the computer for a few minutes. It was potentially powerful but would need a few items of hardware and software.
She stood and went downstairs. Smells from the kitchen attracted her toward it. She found Malena there.
“What are you fixing?”
“I thought hamburgers and fries and Cokes. If that’s OK.”
“I’m making real meat for me and veggie for Alex. He’s on a vegetarian diet.”
“I’m not. What’s he up to?”
“Something on his computer, I’m sure. You want to go tell him to come here in fifteen minutes?”
Alex had the two big screens on the wall in front of his desk filled up. The left showing a virtual white board containing lots of mathematical formulas. The right showed a representation of a complex 3D figure which was cycling through some changes.
Alex was frowning.
Jane walked over to the wall and pointed at part of one of the formulas.
“You made a mistake here. This should be a negative exponent.”
“What? That can’t be… Hmm. You’re right.”
“It’s an easy mistake to make. I do it all the time. Swap exponents. Mix up subscripts and superscripts. What’s in here?”
She ambled through a nearby doorless doorway. Inside it was a dance studio. She went over to the barre. Neat. She’d seen these on TV. She grasped hold of it, pretended it was the hands of a partner, and did half a salsa step. Right. Tennis shoes wouldn’t work on this floor. They’d work on a dirt floor, maybe. On this floor she needed leather soles or a good plastic imitation of leather.
She went back into the kitchen and washed her hands and helped Malena do a few things, ending with setting plates and the like onto the small dining table at one side of the kitchen.
Alex had to be prompted to come to the table. He washed up and fixed his food absent-mindedly. He took a bite and chewed.
His wife called his attention back to them.
“Sorry. Do you know what Jane just did? She fixed the problem I’d been having for a week on my new paper.”
“It wasn’t much. I just showed him a transcription error. Like spotting a typo in a paper.”
“It was more than just that.” He was looking back and forth between the two. “To spot the error she had to understand the math. It took her less than a minute looking over my shoulder to do that. I don’t know ANYONE who can do that. Not in the entire world.”
He gazed at Jane as he picked up a French fry and ate it.
Malena broke his consideration and brought his attention back to her.
“That both eases and makes it harder to find a school for her. For you,” she said, bringing Jane into the conversation.
“We don’t want you bored in classes where you’ve already mastered the material. But we already know some basic material that you’ve not mastered. Finding a school that can handle both high-end and low-end material will be hard. I suspect we’ll need you to take some online courses.”
“Like those in the Free Universe of the Mind?”
“Yes. Like that. And maybe you can take some of the seminars at CalTech. Can she do that, dear?”
“Oh, yes, of course. Getting course credit for Jane could take some doing.”
Malena had just the tiniest smile on her face. Jane could tell she’d gotten his mind out of the stratosphere of math and back in the realm of real life. Smart woman, Malena.
After lunch Alex went back to his work. Malena cleaned up the kitchen and Jane helped. Toward the end Jane said, “I heard one of you say something about your children bicycling. Are their bikes still here?”
“Out in the garage. You want to ride one? You may need to pump up a tire or two. It has been a while since they were ridden.
“Don’t go far!” she said as Jane left the room.
Jane found three bikes. One was especially interesting. It had a light racing bike frame and complex gearing but oversize tires with knobby treads for dirt bike riding.
She took it out and rode down the street, winding it up to such a speed that the air whizzed by. She looked far ahead to be sure she wasn’t surprised by anyone coming from behind a car. She went a mile east, then back home and just past to where their residential street did a T onto a busy north-south street. Right across from her was CalTech. She stared at the world-famous university, then returned home.
Malena was in her office on the phone. She waved at Jane and smiled but stayed on the phone, apparently discussing Jane’s school possibilities. Alex was staring at the big display screens on the wall but noticed Jane and turned his chair toward her.
“You wanted to get something for your computer?”
“Yes. It only has half the memory it could hold. Bringing it up to full would really improve performance. And I’d like a 3D printer if that’s alright with you. They’re pretty expensive.”
“Price is not a problem. But what I suggest is that we get a small one for your room so you can rough out a design, then send the specs to our engineering labs at ‘Tech. We’ve got some of the biggest, newest, and capable of those in the world. You could practically build an automobile with them. Metals, plastics, fabrics, and all.”
They took his blue sports car. Jane loved it at first sight; they’d come here from Marymount in Malena’s silver SUV and the Porsche had been hidden inside the garage. Which was only right for something this special.
“I love this. Will I ever be able to drive it?”
“I don’t know. Are you a responsible driver?”
Jane considered. He was partly joking, but driving a car was serious responsibility. It could be turned into a killing machine, literally, if you weren’t careful.
“I think…I am. I do love speed and nimbleness in everything, but this is yours. I’d feel horrible if I hurt it. And me.”
Deep inside her her super robot agreed. It had just enough personality to feel responsibility.
“Then we’ll explore the possibility. Do you know how to drive?”
“They taught us in case of emergency, but I’m just a beginner.”
“Then we’ll have to take it out to a driving school area and have you learn really well. OK? And now how would you like to see me open it up? Being very careful, of course.”
She grinned. “Very very careful.”
He was indeed, though he broke the speed limit several times when the traffic allowed it.
Fry’s was a huge warehouse of technology. They happily shopped but in the end only bought computer memory and a small 3D printer.
“That was fun,” he said as they carted their prizes out to his car. “Malena hates this place. She prefers something more–luxurious.”
Alex glanced at her and laughed. “You don’t think of yourself as a woman?”
Jane considered. “More of a tomboy than a real girl, I suppose. But I do like pretty things.”
“Tell you a secret.” He spoke as if in conspiracy. “Even men do. We just hide it better.”
At home they installed the equipment and then went downstairs for a celebratory snack. Malena caught up with them and poured half a glass of chilled white wine.
“I think I’ve got the education situation ironed out. Polytech near campus for basic requirements, online for advanced stuff, and for really advanced stuff CalTech. I called in a few of your favors, dear husband, and got her student status at ‘Tech. Be warned, I leaned really hard. You’re in debt to Todd and you know he’ll call you on it.”
“Not Todd. Oh, no!” He smiled however.
Malena thoughtfully added an inch more of wine to her glass and spoke to Jane.
“One thing I ignored. What sports do you like? Or do you like any? I know you participated in some at Marymount but those could have just been required of you. You have freedom of choice now.”
Jane’s heart sank. She’d been dreading this moment. She owed them the truth. She took a deep breath.
“First, you need to know this about me. I’m not bragging, or deluded, just stating the facts. I’m at the very top, maybe beyond, of all physiological indicators.” The terminology was borrowed from Natalie and she felt a pang of loss.
“I’m faster, stronger, have more endurance, more lung capacity than anyone my size. I could enter the Olympics and break records. Enter competitive sports and make millions. But those have too much baggage, too many downsides.
“I sometimes think I’m somebody’s experiment, discarded when the experiment was done.”
Alex said, “I believe you. We saw the YouTube videos of you, after all. Not that we picked you because of them.”
Malena put a hand on Jane’s, clasped before her atop the table. “If you’re an experiment, we’re very glad they were foolish enough to discard you.”
“Wait. What? There are videos of me?”
“Soccer videos,” Alex said. “Why did you make that goal shot upside down?”
They weren’t annoyed at her. And they believed her. Her belly muscles relaxed, the rest of her did too.
“Partly just because it was fun. Partly for practical reasons. The ideal target for a goal kick is the top of the net. This makes the goalie reach up or jump. Even better is the top right or left edge. That makes her go even further.
“That’s at the far end of a shot. At my end the ball starts up in the air if I’m upside down, not on the ground. It’s harder for opponents to block up there. So, upside down shots if you can manage them.”
Alex said, “It must be harder to aim though.”
“Not for me. I always know my orientation and vector in the inertial frame.” That terminology was out of a physics text.
“You mean the gravitational frame.”
“No. The gravity vectors are important, especially in a multi-body system. I mean the absolute inertial frame.”
“There is no such entity. Frames are always relative.”
She stared at him, perfectly sure of what she’d said but not willing to put into words that she KNEW Einstein was wrong. She knew exactly where the Big Bang had occurred and how far away in space and time. And how fast she was moving away from that center of the universe.
He stared back at her.
Malena waved a hand as if swatting flies. “You academic types and your gobbledygook. We’ve lost sight of what’s important. What sports do you like?”
Jane blinked, focused on Malena.
“Just about any sport. I’m very physical and like to DO things. Not so much the solitary ones like golf or spear throwing or running. The team stuff. I like being part of a team, helping each other and encouraging each other and figuring things out as a group.
“So, soccer, baseball, basketball. Least of those basketball because it’s not outside. And less so baseball, because the pitcher is the most important part of the team. Maybe if I was the pitcher it would be OK.”
Alex said, “You could use your physics knowledge as a pitcher. There are only two important variables–“
“I know. I read about all the different pitches. They all boil down to two variables: speed, and spin.”
Malena said, “Just those?”
“Yes. See, a ball always spins about one center.” She made a circling motion with her hand.
“If it spins sideways it will curve to one side or the other.” She demonstrated the left and right curving paths.
“As its forward motion slows down the air impedes it more and it curves more sharply. So when it comes at you it’s almost as if it decides to suddenly veer to one side. It can be very disconcerting and can throw your aim off.
“I prefer the thinking pitches instead of the brute force pitches.”
“Brute force?” said Malena.
“Yeah. I throw a mean fast ball. It can really hurt when it hits, even with the big glove catchers wear.”
“How fast?” That was Alex.
“For me, at least 150 miles an hour. I don’t like to throw that fast. If it hits somebody’s head it could kill them.”
Alex turned to his wife. “The record is a little over 100 miles an hour.” To Jane. “You sure about that?”
“I’m always sure about what happens in my inertial frame.”
He burst out laughing. Jane joined in. Malena shook her head.
By mid-August Jane had settled into her home with the Kuznetsozs. Malena taught her to cook and they grocery shopped together. They also shopped for clothing for Jane, getting athletic and everyday wear and some items of clothing which could be mixed and matched for formal occasions. Malena bought sanitary products for when Jane began her period, saying they should be prepared beforehand so they could segue easily into managing her monthly flow.
Malena also taught Jane to dance salsa several ways. It was a versatile dance with a complex history. Early on she taught her both LA and New York style. The first had a rhythm of Right Left Right Pause, the second Pause Right Left Right. Jane had no trouble switching from one to the other and back again. Malena only had to call out LA! Or New York!
Alex taught her how to drive on a closed course. Jane learned quickly and easily. The Porsche was a high-end experimental model which could switch between an automatic transmission and manual. She learned manual easily and could shift exactly at the right time to get the most out of the vehicle.
The automatic transmission was very good at the same job, but Alex took mechanical engineer George Liszt along with them one day. He sat in the cramped back seat crossways so George could sit in the front seat and monitor engine function on instruments he’d installed on the vehicle. The engineer had Jane do various maneuvers. Afterward he told Jane she was very good and could be a race driver if she ever cared to.
“No thanks. That’s too easy for me. And too slow.”
“Easy? Well, maybe, looking at the figures. You outdid the automatic transmission and Porsche engineers have put in many thousands of hours tuning them.
“But there’s more to racing than pure performance. There’s tactics, and strategy involved.”
“I know. I Googled it and learned a few. I think people need to do more research on them. They could be fine-tuned more.”
He laughed. “Hey, you want to help Alex and me and some friends rebuild an engine sometimes?”
“Sure. That would be fun. I love machines.”
Alex put in. “Only if it doesn’t take too much time from school. It starts in just a few weeks.”
The next day George and Alex crossed paths.
“Alex. You in a hurry?”
“No. What’s up?”
“That little girl of yours. I’m puzzled. Is she bragging, or deluded, or naïve? Racing is easy? I’m concerned. She seems like such a good kid. I’d hate to see her get in over her head. Especially when she’s driving a car.”
Alex thought a moment. He didn’t want the knowledge of Jane’s prodigy to go too far. That could lead to so many unfortunate situations. But CalTech students were all phenomenal, many going on to stratospheric accomplishments in their fields.
“Malena and I are very alert to the problems of raising a talented child. All of ours were, and the kids of most our friends are.
“No, Jane knows exactly what her limits are and is never reckless. The other day while at practice she did a sideways drift. And didn’t raise any rubber.”
A drift was when a car turned so rapidly that it skidded sideways. It always raised a cloud of smoke as rubber tires abraded and burned.
“I thought so too. But when I told her that she said she knew exactly how much skid and in what direction with what tire surface would keep the smoke down.”
He shook his head. “She offered to show me the math, then admitted that it was impossible to prevent all smoke, just so little that humans wouldn’t notice it.
“It’s like she has a computer in her subconscious so that she intuitively knows stuff like that. And can make it conscious if she wants to.”
“I hope to God you’re right, Alex. I really like your kid. I don’t want to see her hurt.”
“Believe me, Malena and I are staying very alert to problems like that.”
“Good. Say, I really did mean it. She’s welcome to come along with you the next time we rebuild an engine.”
That offer was quite a compliment, Alex knew. George was world famous in the automotive and several other engineering fields and did not issue such invitations lightly.
“Sure. If it wouldn’t affect her school work.”