Chapter 5. One-Hundred Thousand Quadrillion Vigintillion
The heater in Chloe’s 1999 Ford Ranger gave up the ghost about ten miles into the hundred and twenty-mile ride. “Unbelievable,” she said out loud as the absurdity of the situation sunk in.
She knew there was no such thing as magic – she didn’t expect them to equip her with a flying carpet or a Pegasus. There exist roughly 10^82 atoms in the observable universe; in plain English that number is pronounced, one-hundred thousand quadrillion vigintillion. It’s unfathomable. But if they dropped in just one more atom, and the ledger didn’t balance, the whole simulation would crash, and our universe would cease to be. Thermodynamics, the law of conservation of energy, and all that jazz always apply. The Programmers who exist outside the simulation must play by the rules, lest they break their own toy.
“But you’d think they could have at least hooked me up with a vehicle that was built in this century,” she complained, the words condensing into little puffs of vapor inside the frigid cab.
Chloe made an unscheduled stop at an all-night diner to get some hot coffee, and for those pancakes, she’d been craving. The detour set her back almost a half hour, and when she got to the rendezvous point on a gravel service road at the edge of a cornfield, the two agents seemed more agitated than usual.
Even the most casual conspiracy theorist would have recognized them as Men in Black. They wore dark suits complete with Humphrey Bogart hats and had ashen, hairless faces. Their eyes seemed a little too big, and their movements were not very fluid.
Only one of them talked – that had been the protocol during each of the previous three meetings as well.
“Was the brain emulation a success?” the talker asked.
“Yes,” Chloe confirmed.
“Give me the emulation device.”
“You’re welcome,” she said as she handed it over. It wasn’t bravado – she simply wasn’t afraid of these guys. They were genetically engineered errand boys cooked up by the Gray aliens on some frosty moon base back in the 1940s. She was next-generation technology concocted by the Programmers themselves and carefully spliced into the cosmic algorithm to have powers of telepathy, telekinesis, and invisibility. She was well equipped to serve her purpose: Espionage.
The problem was that the computational processes driving the simulation had somehow become corrupted. That little incident when she phase shifted in front Jeremy was every bit as inconvenient and embarrassing as showing up for a date with a cold sore. She wouldn’t have killed him if it hadn’t been for that. Silly as it sounds, she sorta had a crush on him.
Now she was very much alone, and her superhuman powers were gone, perhaps the result of her specialized program reverting to default mode in order to conserve memory in an increasingly unstable computer simulation. She had become just an ordinary girl, albeit, one who looked like a model and had a level genius I.Q.
“I SAID YOU’RE WELCOME!” Chloe shouted.
“Thank you,” he finally said in his awkward, almost digitized voice. “We’ll be in contact with your next set of instructions.” With that, the strange men in dark suits ambled to their idling car and drove away. It was a late model Mercedes-Benz luxury E-Class sedan in either Black or Obsidian Black. She couldn’t quite tell – it was too dark out.
Chloe got back in her rusting pickup truck, and for the first time in her existence, she cried. I know one thing, she thought to herself, I’d look a hell of a lot cuter in that car than those two dorks.