One, One

It might have started with one of his transcription errors. He dispensed recipes for appetising concoctions but, whether it was that he was scatter brained or had some subconscious desire to make life difficult for others, it never quite came out right. The curry he tended to make for dinner parties had been soured for any number of others by adding the yoghurt incorrectly. This minor flaw in an unremarkable lecturer and near savant was enough to induce in his fellows a fierce awareness of commutation, or at least its inapplicability to cookery.

That they were so aware of his tendency to oversight in this arena meant they took especial care when checking his work for commutative errors or, more regularly, simple slips between blackboard and notepad. His particular field was fields, and by extension the interactions thereof. Most of his work was of the quietly obscure kind that sits in journals with titles that include the word Applied and are only subscribed to by theoretical physics departments. The occasional forlorn copy sat unattended in the odd university library’s periodical section until the chaos of reference desperation opened its covers only for the white heat of inexplicability to send the hopeful supplicant scurrying. That which wasn’t was usually disappeared from publication queues into organisations referred to by colourful nicknames or impenetrable acronyms and utilised under black budgets in conjunction with apparent dead ends in esoteric materials research.

His tenure was secured largely on the basis of a series of endowments administered by otherwise anonymous functionaries which dispensed vast sums of money on behalf of family trusts like Neiman, Smith, and Anderson, or whose letterheads were decorated with laurels, stars, swords, eagles, and (rarely) anchors. He was one of a set of seeming vanity doctorates maintained as an appendix to the department proper, largely felt to be purposeless until they served to contain some infection, though from time to time some opined their real role was to deal with those who would otherwise be condemned to starve in the long grass.

You can find the complete version of Helioshock in issue 72 of TBD.

Andrew Robertson