How Can One Design a Better Widget?

G. Stolyarov II

A Journal for Western Man-- Issue XXXVIII-- July 18, 2005

- “Widgetry these days has become amazingly complex,” Dr. Winston Andros spoke into the microfone, grinning. “In this age of big science and big industry, no one man could possibly accomplish the task of designing a better widget on his own. So many branches of science have made such intricate advances that it would take the brightest minds in every field just to fathom them all. And so the next model of widget, if it is to be crafted successfully, shall have to be a tribute to teamwork.”

- “And it is this team of the brightest minds in the country that you have assembled, right, Dr. Andros?” A disembodied voice somewhere in front of the microfone addressed him.

- “Close, Jack, but not quite. You see, we have not only the best minds in the country, but in the world. The governments of Russia and China have lent us the very same specialists they used to develop their countries’ widgetry programs, the envy of the United States during the Cold War. And no, it was not I who assembled them, nor is it I who heads the entire effort. No one man could possibly tackle either one of such massive tasks by himself. I am only the moderator of our Discussion and Brainstorming Committee. I have some ideas of my own that might be useful for the fulfillment of this project, but what I am looking for primarily is the greatest amount of input from the greatest amount of people.”

- “That sounds like a plan, Dr. Andros,” the reporter’s voice spoke. “Now, so that the public is better acquainted with this powerful team you’ve assembled, could you please list some of its most prominent members?”

- “It is difficult to list them all and give them all due credit, but I can begin to name them to give you some idea. There is Ike Johnson from Columbia, specializing in Widgemetrics. Then, there is Catherine Adams from Yale, doctor of Widgenometry…”

- “Excuse me for interrupting, Dr. Andros, but, so that our public can know, what precisely distinguishes Widgemetrics from Widgenometry?” the reporter named Jack inquired.

- “Ah, there is a world of difference, but it is much too technical and complex for the layman to understand in any reasonable period of time,” Andros replied in an off-hand manner. “Suffice it to say that both are indispensable for the design of a better widget. Any way, as part of our team, we also have Charlie Goldenstein from Caltech, who specializes in Advanced Widgetron Fysics. We have Widgineering expert Carlos Gomez from MIT, History of Widgetry professor Joe Carmichael from Cornell, widgetologist Sir Henry Beauchamp from Oxford, and our wonderful advisors from Russia and China, Vladimir Volkov and Seung-Ji Ling. We have also assembled a masterful public relations team. With the generous help of the United States government, we have been able to procure the services of the Chief Media Officer for Amtrak, which has a preferential spot in purchasing our widgets once they are manufactured. We are not, however, at liberty to disclose his name at this time. We also have Gender Studies Professor Patricia Morrison from Berkeley and Black Studies Professor Omar Abu Ali Martin Luther King Jones, my fellow Harvardian, co-heading the Department of Multicultural Relations, to ensure equality of opportunity and the maximum of diversity during the course of this project.”

- “My! So many big names!” Jack exclaimed. “Surely, our public must be blown away by now! I must say, your team’s future in designing this super-widget you plan seems bright indeed. But, in a field that offers such promise, do you foresee any competition?”
            - “No, not really,” Andros replied, accompanied by an absentminded shrug.

- “But, then, what about that industrialist from… where is it? Wyoming? What’s his name… Hammond? Hampton? Hamford? Hamsfield? Help me out here…” Jack uttered, half dazed, half laughing hysterically.
            - “Do you mean Hampshire?” Andros replied, also snickering. “No, he is nothing serious, just a provincial, a maverick, and a dilettante: dabbles in everything, understands the really important nuances and subtleties of nothing, refuses to take experts’ advice, and conducts himself in a rather authoritarian… I even dare say fascist manner.” He left an intentional pause after that sentence to elicit a gasp from his audience. Jack gladly obliged, indicating that this was the reaction expected from the viewers as well. “No, I can’t expect his old-fashioned rugged individualism to have any impact on this field of work,” Andros continued. “I predict that he won’t even be able to gather all the widgebolts he needs for the prototype stage of his project—“

* * *

The image on the television screen was extinguished in an instant as a scowling Antoinette Huntington pressed the “off” button on the remote control. Looks like Harvard is spewing its ignorance to the media again, she pondered, the bitterness from what she had just seen still occupying her mind. I have all the widgebolts he will ever need right here! Her gaze shifted to the enormous orange truck standing outside the window of her hotel room. I suppose I shall have to deliver them now and prove these naysayers wrong once again. She stood up from the couch and traversed the entirety of the room in several resolute strides. As Antoinette walked into the lobby, she observed that the attendant on duty was so in name only, entangled in conversations without end on several telefone lines simultaneously. She swiftly deposited her room payment onto the desk and walked out, neither looking back nor wondering what the attendant’s reaction might be. I have much more important matters to worry about. Immediately upon exiting, her eyes caught the seemingly endless expanse of the Wyoming plain. Somewhere within it lay her destination.

Antoinette entered the driver’s seat of the truck and started the ignition. She had only been licensed to drive ordinary automobiles, but she was certain that, in her blue-jean overalls and immense baseball cap that cast a near-total shadow over her face, no one would assume that she was anyone but a regular truck driver. Along with supplies, Dwight Hampshire needed additional vehicles, and Antoinette gladly obliged. If only my parents could see me now. Yet, her upstanding Massachusetts family’s objections notwithstanding, Dwight Hampshire paid well. A forty dollar per hour salary was any undergraduate college student’s dream, and likely the only place to obtain such funds was from an eccentric businessman with money to spare. But I know why he is hiring me, the cynic in Antoinette, a vestige of the influence of her upbringing, began to surface. However much he pays me, the academicians anyone else would hire are far more expensive. No, he is just as self-interested as anyone else. In Antoinette’s parents’ lexicon, “self-interest” was a dire accusation to make, perhaps even the root of the world’s ills.

Antoinette raced out of the parking lot and onto the empty highway. So few people had driven here that the local authorities had deemed posting speed limit signs a superfluous effort, and the police maintained a passive presence, if any. De facto absolute freedom, like the early settlers had. Antoinette’s parents were neither extremely fond of the early settlers, nor of her scheme to move out west during her 2008 summer vacation and seek a job from someone clearly outside “respectable,” i.e., mainstream circles. R. Dwight Hampshire I had made his fortune purchasing and revitalizing widget factories that mainstream, respectable people had run into the ground, and such an occupation was neither mainstream nor respectable. Yet his money is as good as anyone else’s. And yes, it seems I am self-interested as well. Antoinette sighed. Unlike the mindset of her parents, her tendency was to consider self-interest inevitable.

So easy it is for thoughts to drift here. She looked out at the planar stretch of yellow-green before her; though she had exceeded 150 kilometers per hour, her only suggestion of motion was the persistent hum of engine. Both the perfectly straight road and the fields surrounding it were uniform as far as the eye could see. This place has no economy. Why would he base himself here?

Ahead of her, the monotony of her surroundings was interrupted by a glistening dot emerging out of the horizon. Due to her rapid approach, within seconds, the dot became a massive black glass and steel beast surrounding her truck from three sides. She stepped on the brake pedal furiously and found herself parked in Dwight Hampshire’s vehicle hangar, just meters away from a near-solid wall of jeeps, limousines, trucks, and fuel tankers. A most unusual combination. A domed glass ceiling, tinted black and emitting a dim neon-blue illumination, was now above her, indicating that she had in fact come to the expansive main hall of Hampshire’s compound, essentially a repository for the vehicles, materiel, and production equipment that the entrepreneur had amassed for his project. Now he has one more truck. Hampshire had purchased the truck from a small Massachusetts manufacturer and e-mailed Antoinette at her home, requesting that she retrieve and deliver it to him, along with a shipment of widgebolts that she had picked up along the way at a remote Indiana metalworking plant. Apparently, scattered throughout the country were small factories where the mention of Hampshire’s name alone conferred a certain trust upon the individual pronouncing it. She had had to show no identification, but merely to mention the specifics of Hampshire’s offer. Mainstream businessmen, afraid of associating with suppliers without brand names or prestige, usually shunned the distant, scattered, small factories. Dwight Hampshire kept them in business, and thereby earned both unimaginably low supply costs and the owners’ unwavering loyalty.

Surrounding the supply floor was an elaborate network of walkways, furnished from black-painted steel. The footpaths themselves were mostly empty space, the remainder consisting of only a skeletal grid of metal. Nonetheless, Antoinette, with her background in engineering, had never seen a more efficient use of material, and a sturdier result. While there were no gaps large enough that the unsuspecting foot might slip through, each walkway was nonetheless sufficiently light to exert a negligible downward force, thus being supported by a mere four steel cables suspended from the ceiling far overhead. Through the holes in the metal, Antoinette could see a vast army of Hampshire’s employees, all clad in suits and carrying briefcases, all seemingly headed toward a spacious balcony overlooking the compound from the sixth floor. Either they are all well-paid like me, or business uniforms are the one thing Hampshire does not seek to save money on.

A man in a long gray overcoat descended from the sixth floor on a simple square metal platform connected to a robotic pulley via two cables. He strode toward the truck and, to Antoinette’s surprise, opened the door from the outside.

- “This way, Miss.” He held an outstretched hand toward the platform upon which he had come. For a second, Antoinette observed his face. Despite a certain strictness about his appearance virtually absent from contemporary youth, he could not have been much older than herself. His golden hair was closely trimmed and combed to perfection. A finely gelled mustache was accompanied by a pair of nineteenth-century sideburns which left open to view only his slanted, angular cheekbones, hawkish green eyes, and firm, tight, chin. “Antoinette Huntington, I presume?” he inquired once they stepped onto the platform.

- “How did you know?” She asked in return, not having hitherto introduced herself.

- “Julius Caesar knew all of his employees by name, and I am a greater man than he.”

- “Do you mean to say that you are…”

- “R. Dwight Hampshire, the First, pleased to meet you.” Every syllable he pronounced was a challenge to the air surrounding him, as if he had thereby staked a claim for the legitimacy of his right to exist in this world. “Now, with your arrival, our final shipment is here; we presently have all the materials we shall ever need, and construction can proceed.” They disembarked immediately next to a podium which towered over the sixth floor balcony, on which a contingent of black-clad individuals already stood at attention. Antoinette realized that she was the only one in the entire building dressed like a truck driver.

- “You may sit here for now, if you wish,” Hampshire indicated a chair behind the podium. He removed his overcoat and hung it on another, immediately adjacent, chair. Antoinette could not divert her eyes from his no less than aristocratic attire: a gleaming suit the color of gold, and, underneath, a silver shirt and tie of alternating green and gray stripes. The colors of money. Everything he wore was coated with a layer of silk which made him seem draped in an almost otherworldly luxury. Paradoxically, it was far from decadent, only reinforcing his firm, impregnable, towering image. “My work clothes,” Hampshire joked to her in a whisper, sensing her astonishment. He then brought a pocket microfone from the podium to his collar, clipped it on, and addressed those gathered in a proclamation that resonated throughout the compound.

- “Ladies and gentlemen, you are gathered here to build widgets. Please note that I did not say that you will be designing widgets. I have already completed that task myself. This,” his hand pointed to a massive computer display to his left, “is the Hampshire Widget, the most intricate, cost-efficient, energy-efficient, multi-capacity widget ever conceived, and you will produce it. I am an entrepreneur, not an engineer, but I have studied widgetry, by which I mean that I have studied the essentials of widgetry. I know each part and what it does; moreover, from common sense and everyday frustration in dealing with conventional widgets, I know which parts are misplaced, superfluous, or grievously lacking in current models. I cannot build you a widget, as my hands are not nearly so dexterous as some of yours. Nor can I carry out intricate measurements of every component of my design; that is the task of the engineers here. What I have to offer is an idea, an overarching scheme which will employ every one of you in the most specialized of capacities. I know which parts must go together and how, but your job is to build the parts and assemble them. I will not presume to intrude upon your areas of expertise—each of you will be assigned a domain in which you alone are sovereign. You will be left entirely alone to your devices: I do not care how you produce what I need, so long as you do it well and give me what I desire, that is, a widget as I had conceived it. You will work without oversight and without deadlines, and your pay will be tagged to performance. A combination of speed and thoroughness, quantity and quality, will receive the most monetary recognition here. But heed this well: just as I do not presume to interfere with your freedom to innovate, so you will not interfere with mine. The design of the Hampshire Widget must remain inviolate. You will make no suggestions, complaints, or alterations regarding it. It must forever remain my invention, not yours. If you are worried that I have erred somehow in planning it, consider this: I have spent several million dollars on this project already, and I have several billion dollars riding on the outcome. I have the most to lose if my design fails, and, therefore, you should trust me to ensure that it will not fail. I do not think that you should concern yourselves with whether or not I can make a profit; I can take care of that myself. You will be paid on the basis of how you contribute to my plan, whether or not it succeeds. You should thus attend to your own profit instead.

- “That said, we shall have no such absurdities as committees and middle management here; they take up my valuable time, stifle initiative, and demand exorbitant salaries. You will each be allocated a particular budget for your line of work, to correspond with the requirements of your task. I have already listed this money as spent in my ledgers, and thus I have no accountants to whom you must apply for permission to use every penny you are given in this or that way. But beware: if the result of your work is anything less than what I expect to be bought with this money, you will owe me the balance. I am granting you an unparalleled freedom, but with it you must exercise an unparalleled responsibility. I do not run a nanny corporation, and you will not be pampered or given a safety net to cushion any frivolity, irrationality, carelessness, or imprudence. The mightiest universities, governments, and organizations in the world have teamed up to try and build a widget superior to ours. We shall bring them to their knees. None of you yet holds a college degree, yet you lack another thing they have: the ability to tolerate nonsense. One bit of nonsense I will not stand for is pretend camaraderie. We are not pals, and we are brought together solely by the necessities of business. I am Mr. Hampshire, or Sir, if you will. The rest of you will address each other likewise while on duty. We will not have mascots, spirit days, sing-alongs, paid social hours, picnics, or bring-your-dog-to-work days; I am not responsible for your sense of fulfillment and belonging. On your off-hours, do as you please. You will have time and money to spend wisely, and in style. Whether you choose to do so is up to you. You are accountable only to me, and only in your work. This does not mean that we do not have culture around here, only that no external impositions can ever make you learn it. But learn it you shall, if you wish to remain here. And you will know when you understand it without needing to ask.

- “Another bit of nonsense I will not tolerate is bureaucratic forms. The only paperwork you will do is that, which pertains to widgets and making them work. You will neither communicate with nor attract the attention of any government body while you are here. What we do is legal, by the way. Since the Hampshire Widget is an entirely new product, there is no mention of it anywhere in the law books. And besides, you are on my property, and the government is not welcome here. If it had lent us its generous help and oversight, the Hampshire Widget would not be possible. You have voluntarily come into my jurisdiction, and there is no law here except this: ‘To each, his own.’ And now, may your own efforts begin.” Hampshire stepped down from the podium. There was no applause, but Antoinette suspected that Hampshire did not intend there to be. Instead, the employees gave swift, silent nods of affirmation and departed, each in his own direction. When only Antoinette remained, Hampshire addressed her. “Ah, yes, you have yet to be assigned to your task, Miss Huntington. Come with me.” He led her to a heavy wooden door, the only one of its sort in the entire building. Upon it, carved and filled with gold, were two unavoidable lines:

And death shall be no more.

Death, thou shalt die.

- “John Donne,” Antoinette noted.

- “My motto; that is, the motto of the noble house of Hampshire, of which I happen to be the equivalent.” Well, if he is the law of the land here, why not make himself noble in the meantime? Antoinette pondered. Here, he can call himself anything. Or be anything. “Nothing shall restrain me from fulfilling me ambition,” Hampshire continued, matter-of-factly, “And if even death dares try, then I fear I shall have no choice but to fulfill the promise here inscribed.”

- “You are brave, Sir,” Antoinette could find nothing else to say, but, as she had initiated the conversation, she found herself needing to respond. She did not know how Hampshire would react to personal criticism from an employee, either, especially given the nature of his recent speech. Thus, she settled on a broad compliment.

- “And you, Miss, are a flatterer.” He saw right through it. “No, it is not because I am brave that I issue this ultimatum to death; it is precisely because I am fearful. I am fearful of the one thing that could ever conclusively, irreversibly stop me from living in this world as I please. Any setback I have had—and I have had many—I could recover from, so long as I had the will, and the existence to do it. I am not afraid of failure; I am afraid only of not being able to persist despite it, to lose my individual identity.” My boss is a filosofer! Hampshire opened the door and led them into a sitting room, a gallery, more precisely, where replicas of historically brilliant paintings adorned the mahogany-paneled walls. There was Napoleon crossing the Alps in his wind-swept cloak, Plato and Aristotle frozen in a moment from the debate of the ages, Caspar David Friedrich’s gentlemanly wanderer towering triumfantly above a sea of fog. Hampshire sat them down into elegant plush chairs beneath the confident, kingly gaze of Titian’s black-garbed Charles V. On the gilded frame were the painting’s title and the original artist. However, in the corner of the actual image. there gleamed a small but ornate silver “H.”

- “You… drew this… Sir?” Antoinette’s mouth was agape.

- “All of them.”

- “But… I thought you claimed that you did not possess the manual dexterity!” Whatever Hampshire might have said about questioning the integrity of his widget design, Antoinette realized that he valued sincerity above all.

- “Painting and working on an assembly line are two different skills entirely, Miss Huntington. The former is far more the work of the mind than it is of hands; and besides, ego is also involved. I wished to match the great masters at their own craft; I trust someone of your capacities will have an eye discerning enough to note whether I had succeeded. But enough about my ambitions. This meeting concerns yours.

Antoinette removed her baseball cap, unseemly as it was in such an environment. Her long, near completely black hair fell to her shoulders and draped itself over them, while her warm blue eyes entreated him to continue. His more austere ones responded with what she could only interpret as an earnest focus on her.

- “I hired you after examining your transcript and history of engineering projects. You were not recruited because you are a female engineer studying at MIT. There are many of those these days, and most have gotten in through affirmative action. You happen to be a woman, and you happen to be studying at MIT, all well and good. You were hired because you have skill, and because you have shown the capacity to work to develop it.” Antoinette knew by this time that Hampshire neither dispensed flattery nor was its willing recipient. “Thus, I believe that you are the proper person for a job critical to the entire project’s success. I trust that you know how important an efficient widgetron accelerator is to a widget’s utility. It is the source and the delivery mechanism for the very fuel a widget needs to function. This is my design for it.” Another computer screen appeared in front of them, seemingly out of nowhere.

Antoinette was amazed. “Your parameters indicate that it should be about five times smaller than the leading models today.”

- “Therein lies the challenge. There is more: it is supposed to propel widgetrons at record velocities, and then recycle them within one of its chambers. We thus get not only unprecedentedly quick operation, but also a virtually inexhaustible source of fuel; given energy loss to heat and friction, each widget will need to be recharged once every thousand years. I know that this design, as it appears, can work; the fysics behind the matter is solid. The issue now becomes one of ergonomics, which implies meticulous measurements of the tiniest components, and a systematic attempt to try to win useful space where none had hitherto existed. Which is, of course, your specialty. What is desired from you is a blueprint of the widgetron accelerator that any one of my assembly workers can use to build me the final version of this component, without any additional guidance or explanations on your behalf. Again, you are responsible only to me, and I shall judge when your work is ready to be carried on by others. Now, come inside once more.” He pointed to another set of doors beside the Titian. “Open them, if you will, Miss Huntington.”

The elegant oak doors slid open before her, and she entered another vast, spacious gallery, except this time with walls completely devoid of any paintings, though their deep blue color, interspersed with golden fleur-de-lis designs, was pleasing to observe, nonetheless. A play on my name, Antoinette realized, remembering the ancient symbols of the French crown, and the French queen, part of whose name she bore. If I am to live like a queen here, I hope I shall not lose my head over it.

- “This, Miss Huntington,” proclaimed Hampshire, “is your office.” A long, minimalist aluminum table stood in the center, beside a desk and a small computer table, delicately carved and far more in line with the room’s esthetics. “The long table is for any experiments you wish to perform; it is dispensable, and I am allowing you to be as messy as you need to do your work. Your computer has stored on it the numbers of my service personnel; call them if you need any materials delivered to you; that is their job. My architect had planned this building to accommodate a perfect division of labor; each area is intended for a specific type of endeavor, and the communication and delivery systems are so coordinated that you need not leave your room to obtain everything you could possibly desire.”

- “Only in Wyoming, Sir,” Antoinette joked. For the first time, she saw a slight, pleasant, but restrained smile on her boss’s face.

- “You insist on being entertaining to work with, and I am contemplating returning the favor sometime… later. Until then, I leave you to work, and to beware the moment I choose to fulfill my promise.” He proceeded to exit through another doorway, conspicuously marked with a larger version of the “H” monogram Antoinette had observed in the gallery of paintings. She then realized the only logical implication that could be drawn from this. His office is immediately next to mine. Whatever liberties he gave his employees, Antoinette sensed that Hampshire was ever vigilant, and the more significance a given endeavor held to his project, the closer to himself he would keep the person assigned to it. He is supreme here, and he will know everything; he scorns employees’ active subordination to and consultation of him, because he does not need such means of demonstrating his control. He is in charge, and knows it; any show of power beyond what is needed to fulfill his purpose would be just a trite formality.

Antoinette sat down next to the computer and turned it on. Immediately, Hampshire’s sketch of the widgetron accelerator appeared before her. She examined it intently for some two hours, wondering how its creator’s technical mind worked. The notebook by her side quickly filled with comments about every sort of minute requirement she presumed would need to be met for this fantasy design to be brought into reality. At the conclusion of her scrutiny, her comments remained a disembodied laundry list. Yet, at the root of it all, lay something… vaguely familiar.

Where have I seen anything like this before? Hmmm… Can it be? Antoinette jumped from her seat in disbelief. How could I not have seen this before, with all my alleged background? R. Dwight Hampshire seeks to bring the combined elites of the world to their knees, using high-school science! Advanced Placement Widgetry, a course MIT had required prior to entry, had now seemed so remote and taken for granted that she had not expected anyone to apply its material in a constructive, yet original fashion. Every one of the rationales Hampshire had used for arraying his accelerator as he did was taken straight out of an elementary widgetry textbook; there was simply a certain synthesis to the concepts that most students, who learned each unit of the course as a discrete chunk unrelated to anything else, would never envision, because the very possibility of such a thing occurring had never crossed their minds. Of course, those students would go on to become professors in every discipline with the word, “widget,” in it, and continue to spread their impressions of what was and was not conceivable to a fresh generation of minds. And yet, he thought of it. He probably took the course, decided that he needed nothing else, and went off, confidently purchasing factories for pocket change, doing with them what no one could even guess. But I know.

Her mind flashed back to her second semester A.P. Widgetry final, the one she passed with flying colors, thereby earning her teacher’s glowing recommendation to MIT. The teacher had given a problem extremely similar to the one Hampshire was trying to solve… Has solved, Antoinette. You are just crunching numbers for him. The task was to derive the fysical measurements a widgetron accelerator would need to propel this many particles at that velocity, and to have the widgetrons bounce back fast enough to be useful in sending again as fuel this many millions of times. The test was aimed to evaluate the composite of knowledge a student had attained throughout the course of the year, and a different concept was needed to solve every part of the problem. The values derived as part of the answer were so numerous that, in effect, they amounted to the dimensions of a compact but highly efficient widgetron accelerator. The teacher himself might not have known it, of course. To him, the answers could have been an end in themselves, a result of a more thorough application of the course material than students typically anticipated. And yet, Hampshire’s problem is easier. He has, in effect, given me everything already. She recalled her struggle on the exam to visualize the accelerator, to have some way of picturing the numbers he had derived as measuring the qualities of a real existent. Alas, at that, she had failed. The parameters of that problem had not been sufficient to describe the accelerator’s shape and the proximity of its components. The ergonomic dilemma. But Hampshire had been kind enough to draw everything for me, and he is one who knows how to draw; all I need to do is apply the right equation at each critical spot, and I will get all the measurements I can ever desire.

She began to type at rates of hundreds of characters a minute, creating a makeshift equation solving program to save the effort of analyzing each similar system by hand. After she opened several windows of the program simultaneously, each set to solve a different equation, the rest was a matter of the right numerical input. One by one, each of the accelerator’s critical measurements was produced upon the screen. Antoinette’s astonished, wide-eyed stare affixed itself on them; in the entirety of her work with all things widget, she had never seen numbers this small.

The fivefold downscaling was a conservative estimate on Hampshire’s part, to put it lightly. This widget can fit into a pocket. Antoinette wondered whether the widgebolts she had delivered would not, as a result, be far too large to properly serve their function in affixing widget components. But, then again, it had always been a mystery to her why Hampshire had considered a single truckload of widgebolts to be sufficient for not only experimentation, but the entire long-term needs of manufacturing. Perhaps the bolts are smaller than you think, in which case Hampshire has anticipated everything once again.

Antoinette spotted an application icon on the computer screen, subtitled, “CAD.” Computer-aided drafting. This even saves me the effort of drawing anything by hand. She clicked on the icon and began tracing lines, arcs, and parabolas with her mouse in an effort to create the visual diagram of the accelerator, while her other hand typed in the incredible values she had just received. She zoomed in repeatedly so as to ensure that her representation would be accurate to the millimeter, and yet such precision was not difficult to maintain. Above all, she was surprised how readily all the parts fell into place; there was absolutely no overlap or conflict for space among them, no need to tweak some to accommodate others. The intellect which designed this widget had addressed each part in the context of its relationship to everything else, a relationship he knew intimately, for he had designed everything else as well. Had even two people split this effort, neither one of them would have been able to look fully into the intentions of the other, and some elements of their respective parts of the design would conflict. But here, the integration was perfect; there was nothing more Antoinette could do except to go through the motions of producing the blueprint.

After a mere additional hour, a crisp, warm, enormous blue sheet emerged from a quasi-concealed master printer in the corner of the room. Upon it, in glowing white ink, all the conceivable components of a widgetron accelerator were labeled unambiguously. Antoinette rolled up the sheet and unraveled it once more upon the aluminum table. Now, for a set of production materials and instructions.

Her head buzzed with speculations. How many components will I have to order? Are they all indeed scaled appropriately? Do I just need to look at all of them and describe them in a list of materials to be used, or do I need to create additional diagrams for how to put the accelerator together? Suddenly, she felt a spell of disorientation and intellectual inertia. Her head increasingly seemed to resemble a boulder rather than any tolerable weight. As it gradually descended to the table, she noted that she had nearly forgotten about the fysical toll that a drive across two-thirds of the country, coupled with an intense first day of work, could bring about…

* * *

Upon regaining consciousness, Antoinette’s first sensation was that of a velvet curtain caressing her cheek. Somewhere close by, a light, pleasant stream of cool air was provided by an almost inaudible electric fan. Antoinette felt submerged in something, as if her entire body had been in contact with an uncommonly soft medium. She realized, upon closer inspection, that what she had experienced was nothing more than the fabric of a bed and the massive plush pillow into which her head had sunk almost completely. Perfect pressure distribution, she noted of the material upon which she rested, which was aligned precisely with every square millimeter of her. She almost resented the thought of ever having to alter her position; so comfortable was it at present. Then, a golden fleur-de-lis embroidered into the pillowcase caught her eye, and, instantly, her memory was triggered. Oh, my! The project! I had fallen asleep on the job! And on my first day at work, too! What will Mr. Hampshire think of such an inauspicious beginning? A slight tremor of worry passed through her, sparking further questions. And where am I, anyway? She could see nothing behind the opaque curtains which surrounded her on all four sides. The bed was of a colossal size and featured, at its corners, four massive ivory pillars shaped like Doric columns with fake vines entwined around them. These supported a ceiling built into the bed, on whose lower surface was painted a fresco, a replica of Vermeer’s Astronomer with the familiar “H” monogram in the corner. Antoinette was tempted to simply lie still, look up, and observe the unmatched interplay of light and shadow in the great Dutch master’s work. Preserved in the Hampshire copy as well as in the original. However, her anxiety had gotten the better of her, and she forced herself to leap up and draw the curtain aside.

 Immediately, her eyes caught a miniature table to the side, upon which, in painted porcelain cups and bowls, stood an assortment of fruits, chocolates, and beverages. Prominently featured in the center of the arrangement was a small note written on a piece of gold-colored stationery:

Miss Huntington,

I entreat you to eat, drink, change, and come to the adjacent room. There is no need to hurry.


            Antoinette had not doubted that her transportation here during the hours in which she lacked consciousness was done under Hampshire’s ultimate direction. The extent of his involvement, however, was astonishing. Every feature in this room was representative of luxury of the highest caliber. Is this how the man lives? From observing the fresco, and supposing that Hampshire would not gratuitously paint beds intended for other people, Antoinette had guessed that she was in the industrialist’s own room. Does he deny himself anything? Her gaze once again shifted to the table with refreshments. As a matter of fact, he does. She noted the selection of beverages: ice water, lemonade, sparkling grape juice, various rare flavors of carbonated drinks, but absolutely nothing alcoholic. One cannot be a Dwight Hampshire while drunk; nor can one kill death that way.  

            She began to eat. As she bit into a peach genetically enhanced for taste, she could not help but wonder about the reason which had brought her into this room. What could I have done to deserve this—is this an honor, or a punishment? Could Mr. Hampshire be giving me this as a parting present after I failed his expectations? It would certainly be an unusual way to mock a person—show her all that luxury, and then show her the door. Though nobody else was present, she immediately began to blush with guilt. Having been raised around people for whom being ironic was a profession, she began to fear that she had caught some of their abominable cynicism. Here is a man for whom selfish profit is his life, and yet he has displayed an unheard of generosity toward a first-day employee! How dare I think that he has any reprehensible ulterior motive?! And besides, doing this for me was expensive; if he intended to fire me, he would have tried to save as much money in so doing as he could. She could not help but come to the observation that, the more unapologetically selfish a man was, the more sincere and straightforward he would be in his dealings. The best way to repay him, she realized, was to selfishly enjoy what he had given her.

            Upon finishing a filling meal, Antoinette walked to a nearby open closet where hung a solitary item, an angular, tailored, entirely black, floor-length dress, a cross between a Victorian gown and a business uniform. A note attached to the high collar labeled it as “Property of Antoinette Huntington.” She was eager to try it on. Though her family could afford frequent purchases of dresses of this nature, Antoinette’s mother had hitherto influenced her to shun such attire entirely, seeing as it was considered a relic of old gender prejudices. As if miniskirts and torn blue jeans reflect a woman’s dignity better than this. When she donned the dress, she felt, for the first time, as if the true old prejudices concerning her gender, the ever present expectation of being a tomboy, had been eliminated. She was now wholly immersed in an entirely new world, a world where she did not need to compromise her identity to the expectations of the greater society. Dwight Hampshire’s world. In a cheerful mood, she headed through the door, confident in facing whatever would come next.   

            The room she entered, immense in its dimensions like all others, was surrounded by bookcases that extended to the ceiling. Multiple computers, printers, fax machines, audio systems, and even small laboratory tables were arrayed throughout, with hints of recent activity at each one. Hampshire himself was reclined in a rocking chair, intently focused on a tome of Locke. When he recognized her presence, he lifted his eyes and displayed the second smile she had seen from him.

            - “I must say, Miss Huntington, you look absolutely splendid.” Anywhere else, this alone would have been viewed as grounds for filing a sexual harassment lawsuit. But Antoinette was glad that she was not anywhere else. “I trust you have found the accommodations to your liking.”

            Antoinette responded with an earnest, grateful, delighted smile which she hoped would be signal enough that what she would say was not flattery. “How can I ever express my appreciation to you, Mr. Hampshire?”

            - “You just did. Have a seat.” He indicated another chair close to his. “I apologize for not having your own room assigned to you and ready for your occupation yet, but extenuating circumstances did enter into the picture.” Antoinette understood what he was referring to. This seemed to be another reminder of her inadvertent transgression. “You need not fear anything, Miss Huntington. Do recall that my policy is to evaluate employees based on results, not on time spent. If you had taken three hours to do three months’ work, you would be paid for the work, not for the hours. Which is, incidentally, what happened. Granted, when I came into your office, I was surprised to see you asleep in a rather uncomfortable position, but I would likely find myself in a similar situation after doing three months’ work in one sitting. I then examined your blueprint and the equation programs you still had displayed on the computer screen. I was astonished at how quickly you were able to recognize, replicate, and extrapolate upon the exact manner of my thought in designing the accelerator.”

            - “I learned that in high school, Mr. Hampshire,” Antoinette told him, anticipating his nod.

            - “That you did, Miss Huntington. Nonetheless, if you had spoken with any instructor of the subject, he would fervently deny that he teaches any such thing. Creating the Hampshire Widget is certainly not a part of any official course syllabus.  It takes a specific type of mind to integrate knowledge of that caliber, a mind which recognizes a reality where, in all aspects, logic and structure reign supreme. I had taken the same Advanced Placement Widgetry course that you did. When I reflected upon what had been taught there, I asked myself how it would be possible to summarize the course in an integrated, systematic fashion, unified by a single purpose. The result seemed almost a necessary outgrowth of what I had learned. But few others ever think about courses that way. For most, education in general consists of learning how to follow orders, socialize, and compromise with those who are less able, knowledgeable, and accomplished than oneself.”

            - “It seems that some of them… most of them continue to exhibit the same behavior throughout their lives.” Antoinette was reminded of the interview with Winston Andros that she had observed only yesterday.

            - “They not only continue to exhibit it, Miss Huntington, but their dogged adherence to such a lifestyle only fortifies with time. That is why, if you want skilled, rational, uncorrupted employees who will do their work and dispense with the rubbish, you need to hire them while they are young, and while their personalities still stand some chance of  being different from everyone else’s. There is more of a possibility then that they will find the correct path. I rarely make mistakes in my recruitment, and, when I had examined your credentials, I had an inkling that you somehow stood a step above the remainder of the candidates for your position. But, I must admit, I had no idea precisely how true that would prove to be.” He leaned forward, his eyes containing seemingly impossible magnitudes of sharpness and intensity and channeling them toward her flawlessly, without any hint that he would lose his focus from the strain. “Miss Huntington, do you realize that the Hampshire Widget is now virtually complete? I have forwarded the blueprint to be used in assembly; it was so unambiguous in its specifications that I figured no further guidelines to be necessary. The rest of the parts will be child’s play compared to your task, and my other engineers will have a field day now that they possess the parameters of the accelerator to refer to in their own calculations. The vast majority of work consists of having the right ideas, and you have furnished your share; the rest a machine can do. You will be paid in full, of course. Forty dollars an hour for three solid months’ worth of work would equal $86,400. Consider your stay in my chamber to have been a small bonus.” He handed her a wad of cash from his pocket. “Keep it away from banks, credit card companies, and the IRS. You do not need to lose over a third of it. When you are away from your office, I will discreetly slip you in a list of trusted grocers, real estate agents, and manufacturers throughout the country from whom this money, and a certain monogram,” he gave her a lustrous gold coin with the familiar inscription on the front side and an image of the Hampshire Widget on the reverse, “will give you discount services, no questions asked.”
            - “Sir, I cannot thank you excessively.” Antoinette was beyond ecstatic. She recognized it as wise not to inquire as to how he managed to transfer such quantities of funds, and run his entire enterprise, besides, without being hounded by ever vigilant regulators. Whatever he has been able to arrange, he seems not to even have attracted the attention of the media, much less the government. She recalled the bumbling reporter’s inability to do so much as remember Hampshire’s name.

            - “But you can thank me in just the right amount, by continuing to work for me. I so happen to have another assignment which you would be fit for.”

            - “Mr. Hampshire, I would be delighted!”
            - “Excellent. As you know, I am not extremely fond of public relations, neither in cultivating them nor in being on the receiving end. Nonetheless, it seems that my competition has embraced the entirely opposite filosofy. Their project extravaganza is deliberately structured so that the public can have full access to it. Every lab has observational walkways attached, where anybody who wishes can take a look. Their mailboxes mostly function to receive letters from laymen, recommending improvements to the widget that they will seriously consider. Furthermore, their committee meetings—and they have innumerable committees—are to be held in vast, open halls accessible to the public. It seems as if they are welcoming us to closely examine the precise nature of their work. Andros is more perceptive than he appears at first glance, and he knows that nobody will even contemplate stealing their designs or production techniques. He understands, at least, that I would have no conceivable need for them. Nonetheless, I would still benefit from learning how far along they have progressed. Their Supercommittee, which is what they call the aggregate of all their little committees, is due to meet tomorrow. All I request from you is that you appear at the meeting as a regular observer, perhaps taking notes on the proceedings if they become too much for memory to hold. My remaining production and distribution schedule needs to be coordinated so as to keep ahead of theirs, and I require knowledge of the nature of theirs in order to do this accurately. The trip to Boston, and your time, will be paid for in full, of course.”

            - “Are you sending me alone?” Antoinette inquired, still incredulous that Hampshire would commit her to such a mission after having known her for but a single day.

            - “I know that I have your loyalty and will benefit from your thoroughness. You have demonstrated that much already. Furthermore, this is not on any regular job description for my firm, and I do not have any other comparable persons to spare from the production process. Besides, I think you will have a good laugh from it all. Try to see how much those Ph. Ds learned in high school.”

            * * *

            The visitors’ booths in the newly constructed Boston Hall of Scientific Meetings were filled to full capacity. Antoinette noticed many familiar faces sitting there, fellow college students with notepads at the ready, trying to glean a fact or two for a research project or the school newspaper. She suspected that several of them had noticed her presence as well, as she was dressed in a manner they had never seen before, one far too formal to blend into an elitist college culture where students liked their clothes expensive, but ragged. Yet she was in no mood to engage them on any subject. Work must come before chatting. I suppose I have absorbed some of Hampshire’s own culture myself. Professional reporters were at the ready as well, with their arsenals of cameras arrayed in front of the audience. Quite telling as to what sort of publicity the project leaders value the most.

            - “Daddy, what are they all waiting for?” A child’s voice somewhere behind her inquired.

            - “They’re going to design widgets, Michael, so that you can have a nice, shiny new widget for your birthday this year,” a man’s voice responded.

            - “Cool! Is that why they’re all here? Are they all going to build the widgets? Will I get to see how they do it?”

            - “Hmmm…  maybe, in a way.” The man clearly did not know how to frase it best and keep his son interested. “What they are doing is preparing to build them. They’re going to discuss what the best way to do it would be.”

            - “Aren’t they supposed to already know how to build them? Isn’t it their job to know?” The boy’s voice was bewildered.

            - “Well, son, it isn’t quite as simple as that…” the man’s speech trailed off into a whisper. Who said it is not? And what is their motive for keeping it that way?

            The entire room fell into silence as Dr. Andros tapped with his gavel on a massive elliptical table in the center of the meeting hall, around which sat some twenty-five of the project’s most distinguished figures, comprising the so-called Supercommittee. Andros, a tall, scrawny man in his mid-sixties, wore a simple polo shirt with khaki trousers, like the rest of the committee members present. The dress code had been his idea, a means to ward off “popular stereotypes” of scientists as “cold, callous, and distant.” Andros had said that scientists need to act closer to the common man by sharing in the latter’s customs, tastes, and even beliefs. What were his particular words on this? “We must at times sacrifice the purism of ideas for the sake of those ideas’ utility in serving the greater good.” There is something strange about that.

            - “Ladies and gentlemen, we must sometimes sacrifice the purism of ideas for the sake of those ideas’ utility in serving the public good,” Andros began. “But what that service ought to be is always a difficult question. There are so many different ideas out there as to what the public good constitutes. So, if we want to design a widget that will suit the public good, we will need to hear from a variety of different perspectives and come to the consensus of how to create the best widget for all. That is the purpose of the Supercommittee. Through discussion, compromise, and consensus, it shall serve as the ultimate decision-making body for this project. No decision made shall be finalized without first passing through the Supercommittee. This is the best way that we can coordinate the entire project in unison, with our brightest minds working together to accomplish a common goal. I am honored to have been selected as the moderator for these discussions, though I will keep my direction to a minimum. I am merely here to ensure that everybody gets a say, and can express ideas with a maximum of daring and a minimum of stigma. A part of the committee’s function is brainstorming. When brainstorming, anything goes, and we want to assure maximum tolerance of all ideas, no matter how they might seem on face, provided that they are intended to better the common good I had referred to. So now, it seems that we have an item on our agenda that we need to tackle before considering any others. What shall we call our widget? Does anybody have any ideas for a name? Brainstorm! Be brave!”

            - “Hmmm…” the widget historian Joe Carmichael said tentatively, “How about ‘Le Widgèt,’ in the French manner? Everybody likes the French.”

            - “Now, now, wait a minute,” responded the Oxfordian Sir Henry Beauchamp, “the French idea is… fine, but why do you presume a male article for ‘widget?’ It seems to be vulnerable to the accusation of gender prejudices, which is the last thing we want to contend with. How about changing it to ‘La Widgète,’ in the feminine manner? It almost sounds as attractive as French perfume now.”

            - “Impermissible!” shouted the Berkeley Gender Studies Professor Patricia Morrison. “You are objectifying women! Stop immediately!”
            - “Dr. Morrison has a point; that was uncalled for,” Andros chimed in with his support. “We allow for all ideas in brainstorming, but this one clearly did not serve the common good. So we shall pursue others.”

            - “I think we should stick to what would appeal to an American audience,” suggested a shadowy figure in a black fedora and eyeglasses. This was Amtrak’s Chief Media Officer, whose name remained a secret for fear that he would otherwise experience personal discomfort in needing to individually and publicly account for the all too frequent train crash.

            - “But keep in mind that there is a huge racial divide in America today, and we need a product that can help bridge this divide by appealing to the downtrodden, the disenfranchised, the less educated minorities with a history of unequal opportunity,” said Omar Abu Ali Martin Luther King Jones, a Black Studies professor who spoke with a typical Harvard accent and wore several prominent thick golden rings on each finger. 

            - “Okay, then, what about ‘WidgeCool?’ Everyone would know what such a name was trying to say,” suggested the MIT widgineer Carlos Gomez. For a moment, Antoinette blushed with shame. Professor Gomez had been one of her own instructors.

            - “Are you certain that this would not lead to misinterpretations?” inquired Catherine Adams, the world’s top specialist in widginometry. “What if somebody thought that this name implies that the widget could endure especially cold temperatures, or produce such temperatures? What if he or she sues us for providing false information, or, worse, for causing some accident or another, where a person might die during a heat wave because he or she falsely thought that WidgeCool would save him or her?”

             Patricia Morrison nodded affirmingly at her colleague’s use of gender-correct language.

            - “All right, then, what is your idea?” Gomez retorted.

            - “We need a powerful name, a name that people will respect. Something like ‘WidgeMonster.’”

            - “As if that has less potential for bringing about misinterpretations. People might sue us for psychological damages because the name gives their little children nightmares,” Gomez stated in full seriousness. Antoinette rolled her eyes. Her notepad remained blank.

            - “You know, I can see that,” Gomez’s friend, Charlie Goldenstein from Caltech, spoke in support of his colleague. “’WidgeCool would likely bring about far fewer liabilities. I mean, everyone’s cool with colloquialisms.”

            - “Comrades! I have listened to your suggestions, and now feel compelled to present mine,” Vladimir Volkov, the advisor from Russia, declared. “You see, naming things is an art which, in the old Soviet Union, we had refined quite a bit. We knew how to make a simple, concise name that says a lot. All you have to do is take many long words, truncate them down to their first syllables, and string those syllables together. For example, we can have a name that tells customers precisely what this widget is: a product of our committee. Its full name could be ‘Widget Committee Product.’ But that is too long-winded. So we shorten it to ‘WidComProd,’ and watch it become a household word. It saves ink, too, so we will not need to worry about ink shortages when they come.”

            - “Chinese communists have always been better at naming than Russian communists,” Seung-Ji Ling objected. “That name of yours, it has no spirit, it has no way of inspiring people. Now, if we take something like ‘The People’s Widget,’ then we are in greater harmony with what a right name should be.”

            - “The People’s Widget. I like that,” Andros nodded at the words of his Chinese colleague. “It expresses the greater good and the beneficiary of our project. And, really, that is our primary purpose here, to benefit the people.

            - “I still think ‘WidgeCool’ is a better idea,” Goldenstein said. “Young people will like it more.” They will not! Antoinette screamed inside her head; she almost voiced that opinion.

            - “We can find other ways to appeal to young people,” Omar Abu Ali Martin Luther King Jones spoke sympathetically. “We could do that when discussing the widget’s technical aspects. It would be good publicity, for example, to have the widget play rap music along with its regular functions. That way, we have a major selling point for young people, and we get to introduce them to the rich, beautiful, rhythmic, and educational African-American culture. The People’s Widget playing the people’s music—I think that would be an optimal combination.” 

            - “I am afraid there might be a problem with that,” Morrison dissented. “Some… rap artists these days do not have respect for women. They sing about raping them, or about exploiting and objectifying the female body. I am not opposed to rap. No, of course not,” Morrison repeated herself on this point, almost as an automated defense mechanism, after receiving odd stares from the remainder of the committee. “I am not culturally insensitive. I only want equal opportunity to be expressed. We need to broadcast an equal number of female rappers singing about raping males and exploiting and objectifying the male body—then I will support Dr. Jones’s idea.”

            - “All right, Ladies and Gentlemen,” Andros struck the table with his gavel. “It seems that we have reached a point where, all lesser issues aside, two primary contenders for a name have emerged. We shall now have a public Supercommittee vote on this very important issue. The vote, so that I might remind everybody, is between ‘WidgeCool’ and ‘The People’s Widget.’ Now, for a show of hands…”

            ‘WidgeCool’ won. Apparently, the Supercommittee saw it as more representative of “the people” than “The People’s Widget.” Is this the “real world” everybody has been telling me about? Antoinette did not know whether to laugh or to scream. Her equanimity was only possible as the result of the two impulses canceling each other out.

            - “Now, we have had a long, hard, productive day of collective discussion. We have had ideas that won and ideas that lost, but that is the essential nature of compromise, for everyone to give something up so that everyone becomes better off. Now, I will adjourn this meeting for tomorrow, when we will discuss preliminary thoughts about the functions WidgeCool will need to fulfill. The rape… er… rap idea is something that we will have to hold until then, for example. Now, the Fundraising Committee has generously provided for all Supercommittee members to spend tonight at the Boston Ritz hotel and eat a dinner of exquisite marinated oysters and escargot. Of course, we like to be accountable to the public in all we do, and get the public’s input, so we have arranged for a lottery to be held to draw at random several families who will be allowed to meet with the Supercommittee in person and share in our meal and accommodations. These families are the Birches, the Everharts,  the Gladstons, the Huntingtons…”

            The Huntingtons? Antoinette was startled by the plural form. She had filled out the obligatory slip with her name prior to entering the meeting hall. However, she had not expected there to be anyone else present with the same last name as she. Coincidence? Yet that theory was instantly refuted as she observed the two similarly astounded faces of her parents sitting in a booth directly across from her.

            * * *  

            Surrounded by an assortment of persons representing the entirety of her earlier life: her parents, her professor, families from her neighborhood, a plethora of globally renowned dignitaries whose names were household words in Massachusetts, Antoinette had never felt farther distanced from her environment. The frivolous chatter, the false toothy grins, the insincere compliments about trite minutiae, the expressions of the moral ideals of charity and selflessness with a giggle and a sip of wine—familiar relics of her past, all—now seemed insufferably absurd. Yet she needed to bear all of them attentively, occasionally interjecting an affirming glance or a courteous nod. The twist of events which had brought her to the dinner was unforeseen on her part, yet it offered her an opportunity to examine the inner workings of the WidgeCool project, a task she could not afford to default on. He trusts me in carrying it out successfully. Presently, this was the only consideration that mattered to her, for Hampshire had become her sole anchor to any world in which she would want to live.

            - “So, Antoinette, I hear you’ve gotten yourself a job this summer,” Professor Gomez addressed her for the first time, after just having detached himself from a debate with Ike Johnson on the possibility of incorporating the 12.67th dimension into the latest corollary to M-theory. “Might I ask, is it in the field?”

            Antoinette hesitated. She was not eager to bring up the fact of her employment for the competition.

            - “Antoinette works in Wyoming for Dwight Hampshire,” Madeleine Huntington answered for her, stressing the name in a contemptuous fashion.

            - “What? You did not tell me this,” Gomez looked at Antoinette with mild reproach. But, knowing Gomez, Antoinette recognized that it was nothing serious. “With your record, you could have just talked to me after class, and I would have arranged for a spot for you here.”

            - “We did tell her that—“ John Huntington began.

            - “That’s right, John. We did,” Antoinette’s mother cut him off in her usual manner. Ah, the old family dynamic, Antoinette tried to find amusement in spotting generalities that had hitherto eluded her. “Unfortunately, she insisted on having an adventure. You know how kids her age are. What I am worried about, though, is that this will not reflect opportunely on her connections. I mean, who knows Dwight Hampshire? Your project, on the other hand, is all over the news. And that means it is much more scientifically credible, and has far more potential for helping the public in a globally minded fashion.”

            - “Well, kids will be kids,” her father attempted to soften the comments. “She can do what she likes for now. There will be time for her to find herself later.” What does that even mean? Find myself? I already know who I am, and where! Does it mean finding somebody who will tell me that I should be somebody else?

            - “So, Antoinette, I hear from your instructor that you are quite an accomplished young woman,” Andros addressed her. “With you working for him, I might now get just a little worried that Hampshire does really have something up his sleeve.” The entire room erupted into laughter. Antoinette was the sole exception, her neck tensing and her eyes narrowing involuntarily in anticipation of a threat. “So, what do you do for Dwight Hampshire?” She was right to predict that the question would be asked.

            - “Sorry, but I can’t say. Trade secret,” she responded abruptly.

            - “And do his trade secrets extend to Boston as well?” Andros pressed on, snickering.

            - “Business trip. Trade secret.” Antoinette could not have made it clearer that she did not wish to talk about this subject.

            - “You know, Miss Huntington,” Andros raised his goblet of wine and stood up in his chair in preparation for another oratorical delivery, “that is the difference between our project and his. We keep no trade secrets here. Everyone is welcome to learn everything he or she wants. Transparency, openness, honesty—that is the best way to serve the public good.” He lifted the goblet almost perpendicular to his mouth. “It makes you wonder, if your boss is that secretive, what does he have to hide? It really makes you wonder. Here he is, working on an invention, something that people ought to benefit from. Should he not share with the people what he is doing, should he not get them interested, get them in the mood? Should he not ask them what they would like the most, and then provide it for them? But no, he is creating something that ought to benefit the people, and what is he doing with it? He is hogging it all to himself! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, hogging it all to himself! No offense to my dear Miss Huntington, of course!” I am not “your dear” anything! “This upstart, this provincial… all he cares about is money and fame. He will not let anyone in on the secret because he just wants to make a quick buck out of all of it, before people wake up and realize that his so-called widget is just a salesman’s gig,” his chest puffed up and his voice became inflated with beyond the ordinary hauteur as he pronounced these words. “And he will not let others in on his design; no, he wants all the glory for himself. He wants his name on everything. He wants to be able to brag to the world that it was he, he alone who designed it! Let me tell you, the man’s an egomaniac! He thinks he’s too good to share his work with the world, that’s what it is! He thinks he’s too good to compromise his profit for the public welfare! Well, let me tell you this, the world cares nothing about his attempts to inflate his image. What he does on his own, nobody else is interested in!” If Andros had not been expressing the general sentiment in the room, he would have surely been thrown out already for his inflamed, demagogical tone.

            - “If nobody else is interested in what Mr. Hampshire does,” Antoinette answered him coolly, “then why are you so concerned about discrediting him?” Andros’s face turned to stone. He flashed her an angry glance with his beady gray eyes, but had no choice but to sit down and submerge his head in the goblet of wine for the time being.

            - “On a technical note,” inquired Tommy Birch, a local businessman, in an attempt to change the subject, “how far along has your project progressed presently? I am considering making an investment, but I would like to know the state of affairs right now.”

            - “Good question,” answered the figure in the sunglasses and fedora. “We have accomplished quite a lot. We have, as of yesterday, fully coordinated all of the forthcoming committee memberships and discussion schedules. Additionally, we have opened negotiations with subcontractors to custom-design all the parts for us—a considerable feat, granted, of course, that our committees give the subcontractors all the specifications they need. And, to add to all that, you have seen our remarkably efficient and harmonious work today in devising a name for our widget. A good name is one of the most important qualities of a product. It is its major selling point…”

            - “My colleague is correct in what he says,” Volkov took over, “but he has not even yet come to the best part. My comrade from China and I have been to the United Nations for a special meeting before coming here, and we presented to the General Assembly a special protocol drawn up by our own Workplace and Product Safety Committee. You see, all too often in recent years have businesses sacrificed common standards of decency in the effort to make a quick buck. We, as a socially and environmentally conscientious endeavor, had to look to the future in order to see how we could best serve our global community. The measure we introduced, and passed, with the remarkable cooperation of all the diverse assembly delegates, declares a worldwide code of safety and environmental quality for widgets. The code’s specifications—and this is the most commendable part—shall be modeled exclusively after WidgeCool. That is, we have been granted the unique opportunity to become leaders in bringing about improved quality of life for all by the use of these highly rigorous regulations. In effect, certain competitors,” he shot a glance across the table to Antoinette, “shall have to fully observe the model of product design that WidgeCool establishes for all to follow. We have also, with a special order from our President, who has used this opportunity to show that he is in fact a true friend of the international community, received authorization to introduce Interpol into the United States to enforce our protocol in accordance with global criminal statutes. My colleagues, a toast to our remarkable and commendable status as leaders and innovators!” He raised a glass of vodka into the air.

            Antoinette shot up. “Excuse me,” she pronounced in a blade-sharp tone and left the table, her still empty notepad clutched underneath one of her arms. Ignoring the glares of those in the room, she furiously sped outside, and wondered whether she would catch the next subway train to the airport in time. They would simply not let her enjoy the world she had come to consider her own. But if I need to confront that entire other world to save him, I shall! In any consideration of Dwight Hampshire versus the rest of them, one side of the inequality far exceeded the other.

            * * *

            When Antoinette entered Hampshire’s office, her boss departed from his computer console and faced her, his eyes inspecting her expression gently, in a manner that he reserved for private hours and for no more than a handful of individuals. “Miss Huntington, you seem distressed. And I hear that you came here at full speed. Is there something you observed that troubles you?”

            - “Sir,” she began. Her voice lacked any sort of composure. As she passing glimpses of everything about him: his proud eyes, resolute face, impeccable attire, and the insurmountable accomplishments of his mind surrounding him, she realized that one Dwight Hampshire was beyond measure in value, to himself, to reality, and to her. She sensed an urgency in what she needed to do next, caring not about the risk. If the combined mediocrities of the world managed to destroy him in the near future, she would not have another chance. Not fearful of losing her job in the event that she mistook his disposition, she approached him with tears in her eyes, embraced him, and buried her head in his shoulder.

            There was nothing for the next several seconds, yet he did not push her away, nor did he display any signs of surprise. Then, slowly, he lowered his mouth to her neck and kissed it. “Antoinette,” he pronounced her first name. “Tell me what you saw.”

            - “Dwight… dearest,” she began tentatively before her voice collapsed again. “Oh, it’s horrible! You don’t stand a chance against them!”

            Hampshire raised an eyebrow. He lowered himself onto the rocking chair and took her into his arms. “My wonderful Antoinette, do you realize how often I had been in situations where I did not stand a chance? Now, I happen to know something about dealing with those, but we shall wait to hear you out before I tell you what we will do. Rest, my dear, and do not worry about disclosing everything right away. I shall ask you one question at a time, and you will say all that you want at your leisure.”

            Antoinette gave him a feeble nod.

            - “All right, then. Do you think they have a better design?”

            She shook her head, struggling to suppress her tears and return to some dignified mode of functioning, where she could express herself more coherently.

            - “I thought not. But, it might be that I had erred on my production schedule, a matter I had sent you to ascertain. Are they quite far ahead of me, dearest?”

            - “Dwight… they have nothing!”

            - “Nothing?!” Hampshire exclaimed, his hand stroking her hair. “So much to fear about nothing?”

            - “They have nothing, and they will use it to destroy you… those jealous murderers!”

            - “Murderers?”

            - “Yes, murderers, Dwight! They won’t kill your body right away, true, but they will annihilate your mind and leave an empty shell of you—they will forbid you to build the widget, and, if you do not comply, all of Interpol will come knocking at your door, and then they might kill you in flesh as well!”

            - “So, the government is involved in this. Now the situation becomes considerably more serious. It has always been my policy to steer clear of any coercive forces, forces that might alter my own control over my destiny, even those whose imposers think they act benevolently. Apparently, some people just cannot tolerate those who leave them alone and mind their own business. They seek power over people, not matter, and they do not wish to grant exemptions to anybody. But, please, Antoinette, tell me more.”

             - “They have created nothing so far; how could they have? They do not have a design, they do not have parts, they do not have anything manufactured. All they have is a worthless name. Oh, yes, they also have political pull. They bent the ears of the United Nations and the U.S. Government to model all future widget safety regulations on their brand of widget, which does not yet even exist. But, what do they care that they are virtually outlawing widgetry altogether? If they fail at their undertaking, it is everyone except them who ought to suffer, right?” The bitterly sarcastic comments were stated in desperation, but she knew that they contained an irrefutable insight into the psychology of Andros and his team. “Why did you have to be so perfect, Dwight? Why so competent, so sensible, so intelligent, so productive, so proud to be alive? They hate you because they cannot be you, because you are a symbol of everything they failed to become because of sloth, ignorance, frivolity, and decadence. There are so many of them… and they have guns behind them. Do not think they will spare you because you have brought more value into their lives than all the professors and politicians combined. They will shoot themselves in the back just to feel good about their paralysis later.”

            - “I will tell you why I had to be so perfect,” Hampshire whispered into her ear. “Because, were I not, I could never have won you, or have been worthy of your affection.” He smiled at her for the third time. Antoinette did not anticipate how such a gesture, if used sparingly and in the proper circumstances, could infuse into her a joy beyond comparison. “I am indeed quite selfishly pleased to have you in my company right now, and, indeed, I must be, for you are the only person who can save me from what is about to transpire.”

            She felt ready to take on the world, literally. “Anything, Dwight. I am yours, in entirety and perpetuity.”

            - “Splendid.” His nimble hands reached for a drawer behind him, from which he extracted a legal writ.

- “What is it, dear?”   

            - “Remember how I told you that I am the law of the land here? Well, this is a marriage contract—not a typical state marriage contract, mind you, but one meant exclusively for us, with its own unique provisions and terms. This will not hold sway in any government court, but we do not need government courts, do we? The positive aspect of it is that we will not need to register it with the government, either. This contract allows for joint property ownership as well, making you one of the wealthiest women in the world. You are already one of the sweetest, ablest, most intelligent women in the world, so I tried hard to find something to give you that you did not already have. Antoinette, will you marry me?”

            - “Yes! Immediately!” As her pen touched the paper of the contract, she sensed that, with the very act of signing her name, she would be forging a shield around the two of them that no other force would be able to penetrate, creating a niche within the world that all the combined hordes of humanity would be powerless to enter or deface.

            - “Then, by the authority vested in me as… R. Dwight Hampshire the First—quite an illustrious title, by the way—I now pronounce us husband and wife.  May I kiss the bride?”

            Antoinette preceded him in the act and lingered on his lips for fifteen minutes, a bride clad fully in black, both savoring her happiness and mourning what seemed like a certainty: that this happiness would not last. Neither of them had ever been romantically involved before, and neither of them would have been contented with anybody else—if Dwight’s future were to be destroyed, Antoinette knew that she would never again find any semblance of joy. After their marriage was sealed, Antoinette Hampshire could only observe her husband in silent longing and grief.

            Yet Dwight did not share her expressions. He seemed beyond euforic, as if, through several minutes’ effort, his wealth had suddenly doubled in size. “My beautiful Antoinette, look around you, at the walls, the computers, the books, the art…You own all of it now as much as I do. You own something else, besides that, besides even my utmost desire for you. But, you will be quite shocked to hear what it is, because, for all my wealth, you would not have thought I owned that thing as well. Would you like me to introduce you to it?”

            - “Yes, dearest, I’m listening.”

            - “Do you know, Mrs. Hampshire, what osddegs are?”

            - “No, Mr. Hampshire, I do not,” Antoinette answered him playfully.

            - “Now, wait a minute, Mrs. Hampshire! How can you not know what osddegs are, when your own factory right here manufactures them, and is about to come out with a shipment that will make reverberations throughout the world? Are you sure you have not forgotten something, Mrs. Hampshire?” Dwight spoke with mock incredulity.

            - “I must have been lost in a magical dream for some time, in which the master of the universe held me in his arms and caressed me. It must have been a while, and I have forgotten everything else,” Antoinette replied, laughing.

            - “Well, that qualifies as a legitimate excuse, then. I will inform the master of the universe to be less captivating in his faculties, nonetheless.”

            - “No! Anything but that, Mr. Hampshire. You surely do not wish to be that cruel. I still want to know what osddegs are, though.”

            - “Not just any old osddegs, mind you, Mrs. Hampshire, but Antoinette Osddegs. Some say the lady after whom they are named had figured out quite a bit about how to make them work.” The sparkle of wit in his eyes was contagious. Antoinette caught it and displayed it to him for a moment before becoming unable to resist kissing him all over again.

            - “You sweet, ingenious trickster, Mr. Hampshire!”

            * * *

            Antoinette stood alone on the spacious sixth floor balcony of Hampshire’s production compound. At her bidding, the hangar floor had already been cleared of all vehicles, each having headed in its own direction, carrying shipments of Antoinette Osddegs to distribution points so inconspicuous, scattered, and numerous that no government agency could ever track every one of them down. From there, the osddegs would be distributed to all retailers, large and small, and consumers across the country would flood the stores to purchase them; their advantages over widgets in every conceivable category were beyond dispute. Let the government then try to regulate us; we will have the entire American public on our side. Who will have served the people best, then? But the danger had not yet passed. A convoy of military trucks sped toward her from the horizon, with sirens blaring and engines roaring at full capacity.

            She ordered the full evacuation of the sections of the facility visible from the hangar floor. All personnel were to return to their offices or to the internally contained assembly lines. To avoid an arrest warrant, Dwight himself had departed four hours ago this morning to his private villa, with whose location only Antoinette and an old butler had been entrusted. She planned to join him there shortly, but only after the menace had been repelled.

            There were twenty trucks, all of their windows opened with submachine guns sticking out. From them emerged, sprinting, an entire small army of Interpol agents, armored from head to toe in Kevlar gear. Feigning a military operation, they assaulted the staircases and gratuitously banged their rifles on the railings to damage them. They cannot manage an invasion without breaking something. Two of them decided to try the platform lift, but, in the middle of the ascent, had the ingenious idea of seeking to cut open the cables upon which the platform was suspended, in the hopes of finding illicit substances stored within them. Antoinette squinted in disgust at what remained of the two agents on the floor. Then, regaining her composure, she extracted a white handkerchief from her pocket, prominently waving it for the agents to comprehend her apparent surrender. Coolly, she waited until they surrounded her in two rings, pointing fifty gun barrels at her from all sides.

            - “I own this factory. There is no need for violence,” she told them. “If you shoot me, you will get nothing; I can promise you that.”

            An agent wearing epaulets with the UN insignia walked forward, removed his helmet, and faced her. “Colonel Jürgen Rostschnitzel, head of Interpol, North American Operations Department,” the jackal-faced man pronounced with a thick German accent. “We have here a search warrant for your factory, alleged to be producing contraband items.”

            - “What contraband items would those be?”

            - “Widgets not meeting the new UN International Widget Environmental Safety and Quality Protocol.”

            - “That is absurd,” Antoinette answered him plainly. “I, as the proprietor of this facility, can tell you without any doubt that we produce no widgets here.”

            - “Our best intelligence from multiple sources has corroborated the contrary assertion,” Rostschnitzel snapped back at her.

            - “Ha! That just shows how much your European intelligence is capable of. If you do not believe me, come see for yourselves. If you find even traces of widgets, I will give you permission to arrest everybody here. But, I will let you have a full search only if you promise to drop your guns and proceed peacefully. As I have said, we will voluntarily submit to arrest if you turn out to be correct.”

            Rostschnitzel sighed. “Infantry, return to your trucks. Remain at the ready in the event you are summoned. I will go with the lady alone. But,” he now addressed Antoinette, “be warned: no tricks of any kind. I will take a small pistol along, and, the moment the slightest thing goes wrong, I am fully authorized to use force.”

             - “We have only one manufacturing complex, and every production process there is absolutely transparent. You will be able to see every step of assembly, as well as the finished product,” Antoinette led him into a vast hall of several assembly lines arranged in parallel, almost fully automated, due to her husband’s absolute refusal to deal with unionized labor and its impositions. There were a few skilled repairmen and craftsmen to put the finishing touches on the osddegs, and Hampshire paid them far better than any union would have insisted on, provided that they attempted no contact with organizations of the latter sort. However, in general, the parts themselves were far too small for human hands to manipulate effectively. Automated carts delivered them to robotic appendages that applied them to every successive osddeg on the assembly line.

            - “Now, tell me, Herr Rostschnitzel, does what you see before you look anything like any widget you know?” Antoinette pressed her point.

            Rostschnitzel hesitated. He was at a loss for words.

            - “Herr Rostschnitzel, when contemplating an average widget, or perhaps even a smaller than average one, how large would you say it is approximately? Draw me a shape in the air.”

            Rostschnitzel drew a rectangle about half his height.

            - “That seems about right, Herr Rostschnitzel. Now, an osddeg can fit into your pocket. Try one.” She gave him a finalized, encased, polished osddeg, and almost dropped it into his pocket herself. It fit nicely, with room to spare.

            Rostschnitzel scowled at her. But then, a malicious grin informed her that he was not about to let himself be convinced yet. “Yet this… osddeg… performs the same function as a widget. Therefore, it is really a type of widget and therefore in violation of the Protocol.”

            - “Herr Rostschnitzel, an osddeg can perform twice as many functions as a widget. Tell me, does your widget at home have a propeller?” A noticeable buzz was now heard in the agent’s pocket. The device then flew out of it, and halted in mid-air. “Does your widget have a levitation pad?’ That had been a last-minute addition to the design in order to differentiate it from a widget even further. The expense had not been considerable; Dwight knew where to find cheap levitation pads in China. “Does your widget have artificial intelligence?” The widget flew toward Antoinette and landed squarely in the palm of her hand. “Can it play Mozart?” That, she admitted to herself, had been an idea somewhat “borrowed” from the meetings of the WidgeCool committee, except the musical selection, of course, was in far better taste. “And even in the functions that a widget does perform, an osddeg does them ten times faster and better. The difference is like that between a car and an airplane. No, sir, by calling this marvelous new invention a mere widget, you are insulting it! And an osddeg even recycles its own fuel. For you to come in here, interfere with our production, and then brag about advancing environmental quality, is absurd hypocrisy on your part!”

            - “You were clearly designing widgets here before!” Rostschnitzel roared more out of desperation than a calculated attempt to intimidate.

            - “I hope you Europeans have not forgotten the most basic concept of justice: innocence until proven guilty. I challenge you to find a single shred of positive evidence to substantiate this assertion. The only endeavor with which this facility has ever been occupied has been the design and construction of Antoinette Osddegs. I can show you all of our blueprints and charts from day one; you will only find specifications for this particular device. Furthermore, would you like to look at our packaging? It says ‘Antoinette Osddegs’ quite prominently on both front and back.” Antoinette was telling the entire truth. Indeed, with her husband’s disdain for paperwork, the word “widget” had never once been employed in any production log of his. Hampshire knew what he was writing about, so he just referred to the devices as “they” in his records.  

            Rostschnitzel could find nothing else to pick on. He merely shook his head. “Fine. You are a twisted woman, you know that?”

            - “Why, because I am innocent, and can prove it?”

            - “In Europe, we would never tolerate such flagrant challenges to authority.”

            - “I imagine you would not. That is why you have an economy which is not growing, where invention or any standing out above the common denominator are frowned upon as challenges to authority. And then you wonder what you could have been doing wrong…”

            - “Leave me alone!” Rostschnitzel cried out bitterly.

            - “I imagine I should be the one requesting you to do that very thing. Who invaded whose property? Who damaged whose furnishings? Answer me that. Are you going to apologize for this unsubstantiated raid, and pay me compensation for what you had inflicted?”

            - “I owe you nothing! I had a legitimate warrant!”

            - “Maybe you are unfamiliar with our local customs, then. Do you know what we Americans do to somebody who displeases us and refuses to pay up?” Antoinette assumed a menacing pose that she hoped Rostschnitzel would not see through. “We sue them, and I just happen to be one of the wealthiest women in the world. My husband and I have plenty of time and desire on our hands to win your house, your job, and every single piece of armor on your body from you. So I am offering you a choice. Either you surrender to us, in compensation, all of your and your troops’ cash, equipment, and vehicles that you brought here, resign from Interpol, and submit to six months’ retraining at our facilities to become productive individuals for a change, or we take those very things and more away from you in American court, which will not be as rigged in your favor as the pseudo-justice systems you are used to in Europe.” She was staring him down with narrowed eyes whose expression of fury must have seemed quite convincing. “Here, take this,” she handed him her white handkerchief. “Show it to your troops, and gather in that corner over there to await further instructions.”

            Rostschnitzel had no choice but to accept. It is times and impressions like these that make the world hate Americans, and make me proud to be hated in that fashion. I also now have a fresh fleet of trucks to deliver all our new shipments. Two birds with one stone.

            * * *

            - “Lemonade, dearest?” Antoinette entered the covered balcony, carrying a tray which she placed beside her husband, who lay reclined on a mound of silk pillows, observing the blizzard unfolding outside. Today was a typical January, 2009, afternoon in their island mansion, ten miles off the coast of Washington State, officially bordered by international waters. The heating inside was flawless, and Antoinette was fond of throwing a symbolic challenge to the climate and the elements by wearing light summer dresses all through the winter, during which the two of them had voluntarily secluded themselves within the vast confines of their residence.

            - “Certainly, Antoinette. Your art in making it is unequalled.” In the prior months, Antoinette had taken to maintaining an indoor greenhouse to fulfill a part of their food desires without needing to venture outside. Traveling to the States for groceries was an inconvenience at best; and at worst, others might begin to wonder where she was traveling from. Thus, Mr. Simmons, their butler, usually just arranged for boatloads of goods that could not be homegrown to be shipped to them. The boats would stop halfway to their destination, and Mr. Simmons would take them over from there and steer them to the island. Antoinette, with his assistance, had by now become quite an adept cook and gardener. On the side, she even took painting lessons from Dwight and still had time to design an occasional invention which her husband immediately submitted to production over the Internet. I can engage in so many different activities and still find hours where I can simply enjoy his presence. No, there is no reason not to be a Renaissance woman in our era.

            She curled up beside Dwight on the pillows and sipped her own helping of the refreshingly cool beverage while watching the deadly tumult outside in the perfect safety and comfort of his arms. Large nuggets of hail struck their bulletproof, soundproof windows with no effect, and Antoinette had never experienced a more proper relationship between man and the elements. “I have three things for you today, Dwight. There is a message, a story, and a gift.”

            - “Indeed?” her husband answered with a smile. “I should like to hear all about them.”

            - “The message is from my parents. It seems that they have finally gotten over the fact of our marriage and the truth that I could not care less about making any more ‘connections.’ What would I need them for, besides? My father was really swayed from the beginning. He did not think it prestigious enough for me to work for you, but to marry you, with all your wealth, was another story. And I suspect that it was that ski lodge in Colorado you bought for him that did most of the persuading. My mother is still not thrilled, of course. She does not consider you sufficiently ‘compassionate’ or ‘globally minded.’ But she expects me to exert a positive influence on you and get you to give to others more. Could you give me a kiss, for example?”

            - “My sacred moral obligation. Of course!” He fulfilled it unfailingly. For a minute, they simply laughed about their redefinition of charity.

            - “Now, you have earned a story. Did you know that the new, overwhelmingly Republican Congress was sworn in today? Some of the new Republicans are even rather principled, for a change. Yes, Dwight, you abstainer from politics, you altered the entire American government with one trick of nomenclature! Well, I suppose the real change happened back during the summer when almost every American relegated his old widget to the antique shop and bought himself a shiny, new, multi-purpose pocket Antoinette Osddeg. Everyone still wonders who could have thought of such an idea, or such a name for it, but word of the raid spread fairly quickly, and most now suspect that the renaming was a deliberate attempt to avoid the virtual abolition of widgets by the UN Protocol. Once people found out that the osddeg would have initially been banned by its regulations, any politician who had supported the Protocol stood no chance come November. The last straw, of course, was the failure of WidgeCool after months of committee deadlocks. Apparently, they could not manage to compromise on whether WidgeCool should play songs by a black female rapper, or a Hispanic one. Yes, Gomez still makes the occasional apologetic comment about Hasendorf’s Inaccuracy Principle, stating that you cannot properly predict a widget’s mass and its functionality at the same time, and citing that as the reason for the WidgeCool debacle. I am glad that you did not use widgetry concepts of this advanced a caliber in your design. Besides, everyone knows that this is just a pseudo-scientific way of saying that they failed, and blaming anything for it but themselves. So, the Republicans came in, and they introduced a measure which merely restated what everyone else had known all along: that all government attempts to regulate the widget industry have been catastrofic failures, and that the government, for the sake of preserving its own last vestiges of respectability, should cease such nonsense. Interpol has been ordered to remove its presence from the United States, which is, of course, a non-issue, since all the Interpol personnel who had come here in the first place work for us now. Congress has also closed down all subsidy programs to widget manufacturers, and sacked all government advisors to private firms. It seems that Amtrak has a new shady Chief Media Officer, and Volkov and Ling have had to return to their homelands incognito. Rumor has it they are now both employed by the United Nations in the UN’s new international anti-terrorism initiative. Indeed, there is a high likelihood that they will succeed in said initiative by committee-ing the terrorists to death. Andros… now, that is the capital story. After WidgeCool failed and he lost his position as the project’s chief moderator, Andros took to alcohol even more than he did before. His policy of making compromises on everything, including drinking, really came out in alcohol’s favor. So, Andros also managed to compromise his reputation and his job when he delivered a pivotal Harvard lecture while drunk. The lecture was supposed to be about advanced widgetry, but all anybody could hear was the occasional denunciation of ‘maverick individualists,’ interspersed with a lot of expletives. One could anticipate what happened to him afterward. But enough about them. You, my dear husband, are now free to innovate. You were right, the world was wrong, and the world is really quite eager to get on with it—to save it from the embarrassment of its error, of course.”

            - “You do know that widgetry was just a stepping stone for me, right, dearest?” He displayed the mischievous smile of a genius.

            - “What are you not telling me, Dwight?” Antoinette tried to sound fierce, but could not suppress her laughter.

            - “Biotechnology, Antoinette, shall be my next industry to conquer. I did not have that John Donne poem engraved onto every door in this house for nothing, and I will not let it remain a futile hope. With biotechnology, at least in the direction that I will take it, there stands a real chance that death shall die, and sooner than most people suspect. Do you want to kill death with me, and do it in our own peculiar manner, swiftly and without asking permission from anybody?”

            - “Sounds like a plan. That reminds me of something else we did in such a fashion, which is quite related to my gift to you. I have always wondered why it was that you called yourself R. Dwight Hampshire the First. It almost seemed to beg the question, you see, of what other R. Dwight Hampshires there could possibly be. So, that gave me an idea. I thought that you wanted to start a dynasty, and every dynasty needs an heir. Here I was with the capacity to provide one, and I figured it would be a nice thing to do for you.”

            - “Antoinette, how delightful!” Hampshire looked at his wife with intense, adoring eyes for minutes of a harmonious silence that they both understood. Antoinette could not yet kill death, but she was already creating life, a life that both of them would cultivate within the confines of this mansion, a child who would be raised as a thinker and an innovator from the cradle, without the restrictions of society or the malicious envy of his peers to encumber him. He would never cower behind a desk, nor learn how to fraternize or follow orders. His teachers would be his parents foremost, and then an array of private tutors in every discipline befitting a true Renaissance Man, and he would grow up learning his proper place above all the muck of human folly. “Say, dearest, are you any good at anagrams?” Dwight finally inquired.

            - “Anagrams? Now and then I figure them out. I suppose I could try one,” she answered him invitingly.

            R. Dwight Hampshire I extracted a slip of paper from his pocket and wrote on it, in capital letters, “ANTOINETTE OSDDEGS.”

            - “Unscramble that,” he told her.

            She inspected it for a moment, and then gasped with joy. “Oh, my…” How could it have been so obvious all along?

            - “If there was one hidden message that you wanted to send to the world in a name, what would it be?” Dwight pressed the matter. “Do write it out.”

            Her hand felt no impediment whatsoever as it produced the words alongside the anagram: “ANTOINETTE, GODDESS.”

            - “Dwight, I thought you despised flattery!”
            - “Flattery, or just a selfish expression of the truth? You can create life, you will live forever, and you have numerous divine attributes, besides, which I hope to fully benefit from.”      

G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent filosofical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician and composer, contributor to organizations such as Le Quebecois Libre, Enter Stage Right, the Autonomist, and Objective Medicine. Mr. Stolyarov is the Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator. He can be contacted at

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA's Statement of Policy.

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