Al Locute watched as Professor Late walked out of the Reflex Angle Cafe and dropped his food. “Hal!” the Prof said.
Al felt puzzled by Cal’s server error and subsequent mispronunciation, not sure how to account for it. “Hot container?” he asked.
“Uhhhh… yes,” the professor quickly agreed. “And I just remembered an engagement. Can I go over the marks with you another time?”
“Okay…” Al agreed. “If you’re sure you’re all right?”
“Aside from starvation I’m fine,” Cal mumbled. He hurried off.
Once back in his office, Cal (actually Sham Breakit) turned to talk to his holographic observer. “Can you ever not pop up so suddenly?” he asked.
“I’m sorry Sham, I can’t do that,” Hal intoned absently, worriedly punching calculator keys.
Sham caught the concern in Hal’s voice. “Has there been some change with respect to time?”
“Oh, mega delta, beta believe it,” Hal revealed. “You’ve blown up the math building after all!”
“It’s going to happen in two weeks!” Hal paused. “On the plus side, we can log the major factors now.”
“How will I blow up the math building??”
“Indirectly. See, Professor Rick Ursion is part of the ALU; they’re the Additional Labs Union. You might have noticed scarcity in terminals as enrollment increases. This group is trying to find a way to fix the labs, add more units… the problem is a lack of space.”
Sham frowned. “Then the schematics I got were to help me find an additional terminal room?”
“I suppose. It’s all being done somewhat undercover too, because the ALU doesn’t want the CPU to know what they’re doing; CPU being the Chair Protection Union.”
“Oh, are they the ones who chain the chairs to the terminals?” Sham inquired.
“Actually, they’re the reason the chairs are tied up. It’s a protection racket run by ‘Pa’ Scal and ‘Ma’ Dula III. If the chairs weren’t bolted, they’d be paying cache to keep the chairs ‘safe’.” Hal frowned. “Not that the chairs seem to be worth stealing… but the ALU can’t afford to get new locks when they install new chairs. Hence the secrecy.”
“But how does this lead to the building’s demise?”
Hal tapped more keys. “In the original history, the ALU just tried to redesign the sixth floor to accommodate more students. They gave up because no one could think in sixth-floor dimensional space; the additional terminal problem was left to professionals. And this August, the CPU will be arrested for making con currency to buy hash, thus these groups weren’t supposed to affect Mizuloo.”
“Uh-oh, I did change that,” Sham realized. “Last week when Professor Ursion came by asking about the sixth floor I said it was probably best to keep as far away from there as possible. I didn’t know what he meant.”
“Well, it seems he took your advice. The ALU is now going to try blasting an extra underground floor! Except someone in the CPU alters the circuit to try and shake all the chairs loose too; the resulting charge destroys the entire structure. It’s a mess, Sham.”
Sham frowned. “Well, not for two weeks. So I’m going to go see Professor Ursion now and prevent it!”
But upon arriving at Ursion’s office, Sham found only Lynn Kedlist, the professor’s assistant. “Where’s Rick?” Sham asked.
Lynn eyed him for a moment. “1,184,” she said.
Sham sighed. “1,210,” he responded. It was a similar friend number code to 220 and 284 from another day, whereby each number had divisors that summed up to the other. “You might consider changing to codes other than prime or friendly number sequences,” Sham added. “To really baffle the CPU we could use sociable numbers.”
Will Sham save the building form destruction? Does anyone really care about sociable numbers? More answers next time…
–Greg “hologrami” Taylor
[Nothing to add this time; enjoy the CS references. We’re at entry 4 of 6.]