Impractical Designs

February 12, 2019:

Nadia Van Dyne drops round to visit Caitlin and talk about her latest science project.

Sound Stage A - Somewhere Out There

A sleek, white box of a room, with shiny floor and polished ceiling, ultra-smooth walls, and bright omnidirectional lighting that evokes the feel of a futuristic clean-room… or an Apple Store. Holographic controls sit in one corner, waiting to be activated.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Caitlin narrows her eyes at the interior of her oven. It's a new oven, and therefore, she's suspicious of it. And the digital readout that tells her the cookies are done, despite the evidence of her own two eyes and how they're not *quite* the right color of golden brown.

She sets the timer for three more minutes and straightens, dusting her hands on her apron. Caitlin's dressed like June Cleaver, if June had spent six months bulking on protein powder. No jewelry, nothing fancy. Just a pretty A-frame dress with a floral pattern and unremarkable tan flats. She sets out a few snacky-type fingerfoods on the black slate countertop of the kitchen island, near the stools opposite her position in the kitchen area. The condo is large by New York standards, an open floorplan giving it an airier feel. It's the sort of place a young professional would own, and still has that new-paint, new-flooring smell even under the wafting scent of baking occurring.

Nadia's due along any moment, so Caitlin starts setting flatware and dishes up in anticipation of her friend arriving.

*

There are certain types of super genius. There are those who plan out every detail of every moment out and others who tend to run at a more spur of the moment sort of pace.

Nadia Van Dyne is one of the latter. So when the project she's been enthralled with hit upon a technical engineering problem that needed a second opinion she simply took the quickest available route to get an answer. Which just so happened to have been an experimental teleportation gateway that G.I.R.L. have been working on almost as long as the group has existed.

Something outside the front door to Caitlin's apartment makes a blinding flash and, a split second later, there is a loud and rather rude exclamation in Russian and a crash. As Ms Van Dyne translocates through space to a point almost exactly two feet and one seventh of an inch above the floor before gravity takes over.

*

An alarmed Caitlin opens the door and looks down at Nadia with concern on her face. "Criminey! Are you okay?" she balks. A door opens down the hallway and a white-haired woman scowls at the two ladies, one of them on the floor.

"What's that racket?" she demands, querulously.

"It's fine, Mrs. Michaels!" Caitlin calls, waving apologetically. "I'm sorry! My friend tripped and fell!" The octogenerian scowls, mutters under her breath, and retreats behind her door with an irascible tone.

Caitlin offers Nadia a hand up to her feet. "Still don't have that Z-axis dialed in, huh?" she asks, with a wryly sympathetic tone. "At least it's not teleporting you into occupied space. C'mon in, dinner's almost ready," she offers, and holds the door politely for Nadia. She invites her friend to take a seat at the kitchen island. "Can I get you something to drink? I've got soda and juice, and I think a little wine if you like wine."

*

The young brunette has just about picked herself up by the time the door swings open. And it's immediately clear from her manner of dress that Nadia is perhaps not on a planned social visit. After all she's wearing jeans and a T-shirt, plus a pair of fluffy bunny slippers in the middle of winter. No coat or bag in sight. Just a few sheets of paper she's in the process of putting back in order.

"Oh I haven't had time to even look at the gateway. It's not even really my project, I was just borrowing it because I wanted you to take a look at some figures for me," she explains as she comes inside and takes a seat. "I assisted with some of the early rift exploration and then I had to perform a necropsy on a completely unknown potentially alien lifeform. I put myself in a voluntary quarantine just to be on the safe side and… well I had a few ideas while I was by myself." She beams a smile, practically bouncing with excitement for a moment and then with a sigh adding "I was hoping you could provide me with some engineering input. If my figures are correct my design will unfortunately cost around forty trillion US dollars. But I was hoping you could suggest some cheaper materials that might perform the same function?"

*

"Uh… yeah, I can try that." So much for the 'little consulting project' that Nadia had texted Caitlin about! But the ginger bustles around, setting out food and dishing up a meal for Nadia. It's lasagna, and it's … really good, actually. She pulls her cookies out of the oven with no regard for the temperature, bare handed, and sets them on a warming rack.

"Forty trillion's… kind of a big chunk of the national budget," Caitlin says, cautiously. "Like if you pulled the combined gross income from Stark Industries, Wayne Enterprises, and Starr Labs, I don't think you'd make a big dent in it."

She scans the papers under a camera. Her refridgerator, a big monolithic industrial model, proves to have massive LED displays on the front panels. She throws the documents to them and picks up a plate of food for herself, eating with a steady but absentminded pace as she evaluates the documentation.

"I… well, I can't say if the science is sound," she admits, a beat later. "I'm guessing there's a good amount of research in place to support it. But the scale is kind of iiimpractical," she says, barely catching 'insane' before it slips out. "Even if you built the pylons needed with concrete instead of refined metal, you'd need, uh…" She does the math in her head. "Four and a half billion tons of concrete per pylon, and at least five thousand pylons. That seems… a little unrealistic," she says, with a sincerely apologetic expression.

*

"By my estimates it would take the entire wealth of the United States for two years," Nadia explains earnestly. "And that is simply the materials cost. The wages for the employees would factor in separately." She shrugs as if the finance aspect is really someone elses problem to deal with, because hey that's what accountants are for right? "But it would generate enough clean electricity to provide for everyone on the planet for the next hundred or so years."

It may well have been a day or so since the young scientist ate anything from the way she attacks her plate of food. "It turns out I get very bored in quarantine," she admits ruefully. "I also started work on a way to hybridize the genetic material of the dead rift creature I was studying and got half way through the steps needed to make a hybrid using crocodiles as surrogates before I remembered the creature had killed and eaten two people."

*

"No, I mean, like I said, the … theory's sound. If you can figure out a workaround in a feasibility study, then maybe there's a pitch there!" Caitlin tries to sound encouraging— she really does. Scientists come up with the ideas, engineers work on the implementation, and Caitlin is an engineer at heart.

"Let's probably maybe stay away from bioengineering of potentially dangerous transdimensional life forms, though," she cautious Nadia. More food is nudged towards the seated woman so she's not just plowing through the lasagna, even if there's enough of it to feed twelve at once. "There have been a lot of movies reminding us why recombining unknown DNA is a really, really bad idea," she points out. "Jurassic Park never ended well for anyone!"

*

"My current theory is the creature was not a transdimensional entity but perhaps it was a crocodile analogue from an alternate version of our universe. But it's very hard to say for sure…. It's even possible it was simply a confused alien. I have ruled out a severe mutant because it was defeated by two individual who I believe to be… some sort of mutant superhero team," Nadia explains between very 'ladylike and demure' mouthfulls of food. "Oh, you perhaps should have said a… I believe they are called spoiler alerts? We did not have access to popular movies where I was staying in Siberia."

*

Caitlin laughs. "Trust me, it's not a spoiler," she says wryly. "The first Jurassic Park came out in… gosh. The early 90s? I might not have even been born yet," she explains. "But TL;DR, they clone a bunch of dinosaurs, then people show up and say 'maybe don't clone dinosaurs', and then, spoiler: things go wrong," she says, her tone amused and dry all at once.

"Still, just to be safe, better to avoid crossbreeding anything with anything that came here through a vortex, dimensional shear, or energy field. Let nature do its own thing, that's my motto," she remarks.

Caitlin dishes herself up some more lasagna and the side salad she prepared, and then offers some to Nadia if she's craving seconds. It's not impossible Nadia might decline, Caitlin serves up food like an Italian grandmother.

*

"It had been on my list of movies to watch with the rest of the girls," Nadia muses as she accepts an, admittedly much smaller, second helping. "But we are still moving through the highlights from the early history of cinema. Currently we are watching classic black and white movies, having finished the recommendations from the silent movie era."

"I am less inclined to leave nature to it's own devices. I /did/ genetically engineer myself after all. But I became aware of the possible ways that recreating a lifeform that was capable of an unknown means of accurate instant translocation could go wrong /very/ rapidly. Before I'd even reached the stage of designing a pen for it to live in anyway… It's a shame because for all we know it could have been the last of it's kind. I rather wish we had been able to leave it unharmed, but then I expect it would have died when the rifts were sealed."

*

"Y'know, that's the less fun side of doing real-world application," Caitlin says with some sympathy. "You see all these cool ideas and notions and alien geegaws and go 'gosh, I know that this thing could destroy humanity if the least part of it fails at all, but wouldn't it be cool to hook up a subatomic tesselecta drive to a car?'" she quips.

"Half of what I do on a day to day basis is just telling the crew 'come back when you've got a viable safety study'. I had to get kind of stern with one of my teams, they took my particle accelerator and tried to use it to speed up the microwave in the break room. Glad I caught them before they destabilized realspace."

*

Nadia pauses mid-way through eating a forkfull of food. "Someone will probably be very upset that I used the spatial doorway to save on commuting time… I /did/ leave a note asking for them to set off with a car to pick me up this time though." She considers this for a moment then shrugs again. "Well it's not like anyone can fire me… Personally I am much less concerned with my work failing. I am very confident in the theory behind anything before I build it. But the idea that someone could steal my ideas? That scares me."

*

Caitlin hesitates. She pauses with a forkful of food then sets the utensil down on her plate, gathering her thoughts. "I'd be more scared of my work failing," she says, honestly. "If someone steals my ideas, well, that sucks. But if someone could figure out how to reverse-engineer the Coca-Cola recipe, they'd have done it by now. There's a gulf between stealing an idea and implementing it."

"I'm scared of someone using my design, my engineering, and having it blow up in their faces. Did I use the wrong kind of threadlocker on that screw? Did I make a mistake with the math on the pressure chamber?" Her shoulders rise and fall in a shrug. "Someone stealing from me isn't the end of the world, but me letting people down because I assumed my math was good— that keeps me up at night."

*

"I could tell you the recipe if you want," Nadia offers brightly. "It's not really that complicated to work out if you use cutting edge lab equipment. But I can understand your point.. I think perhaps I grew up in a very different learning environment. Failure was never an option for us and the results of our work were almost always intended for… negative purposes."

She looks out the windows and pouts, lost in thought for a moment. "It was not the happiest start to my life, but I intend to more than make up for it with my work now. Although perhaps I will need to scale back my ambitions a touch… Or try anyway."

*

"I don't think a lot of us get into the cape and tights game because we had idyllic home lives," Caitlin points out, gently. "It's good to have big ideas. Just… don't forget that there are people around you every day, and you— we," she amends, "owe it to our neighbors not to deconstruct their reality because we're running around with an unlicensed, untested nuclear accelerator strapped to our backs," she says, wryly. "Risk management, thats what Carol and Diana keep saying."

*

"Oh no cause for concern. My nuclear accelerators have all been fully tested," Nadia helpfully chimes in, gesturing with her fork. "And even if it exploded right now you'd get more radiation exposure by eating a bunch of bananas. It's shrunk so small that you could protect yourself with a bit of lettuce."

"Having the other members of G.I.R.L around helps a lot with that. It's good to be grounded. And a lot of my smaller scale work has directly helped people who would be ignored by a bigger project. We've put together all sorts of bespoke designs for wells, power systems and water purification devices. All intended to serve small communities which wouldn't be able to source replacement parts. It's been a lot of fun." She gestures some more with the fork. "Have you been working on anything interesting lately?"

*

"This thing with the rifts has been keeping me busy," Caitlin allows. "The rest of it— well, it's all work stuff. I can't really talk about proprietary research," she apologizes. "The downside of working in the Skunkworks, I can't really kick it around with my friends outside of work like we used to. Given the friction between the old guard at Pym Industries and Tony, I don't think he'd be wild about collaborating, either," she says, with a nosewrinkle. "At least that was what someone told me around the water cooler. I mean, the espresso machine. If we had a water cooler, it'd be near the water cooler, I'm sure."

*

"He did not get along with my father?" Nadia wonders aloud. "He did not seem to have any problems with me when I visited the Avengers Mansion last. Except when I mentioned that his math looked a little crude. But in fairness his machine did then briefly stop working so… I feel vindicated in my assessment of his workings."

"I had been doing some scientific collaberation with one member of the Avengers. The time traveller. So I know something about talking with people whose work I can't get full disclosure of details for."

*

"Might just be the rumor mill," Caitlin apologizes. "There are a lot of gossips at Stark Industries. But I get a feeling that anywhere you go you're going to meet someone who didn't get a job they wanted and they're bitter about it."

She removes the cookies from hte warming tray and sets the plate in front of Nadia. "Dig in, I made plenty. Tollhouse cookies are the best. No idea how to make less than three dozen at a time, though," she says with a cheery tone, and breaks one in half for herself.

"Oh, right," she says, before she takes a bite. Caitlin sets it down and retrieves a pitcher of milk from the fridge and two low glasses, perfect for dunking, and pours one for each of them. "Cookies and milk is the best."

*

Nadia Van Dyne laughs. "By all accounts my father could be very… difficult to work with at times," she points out. "Even at Pym Industries people often assume I'm going to react a certain way. Presumably they think because I share his intelligence I may also share his temperament." She eyes the cookies. "What is a tollhouse cookie? Was it something originally sold on roads which required an additional fee to use? Or bridges perhaps."

"Ever since moving to New York I have been trying to eat my way through every cuisine on the planet. I've recently been trying to sample every variation on baklava I can find. And every week we have an order of cronuts brought for the weekly catch up sessions. I suppose being an heiress has some perks!" She leans in and adds "Although I am concerned that such a position can have negative ramifications for an individuals people skills… I met a young man who claimed to be the heir to the Wayne family… He seemed of above average intelligence but his ego was staggering."

*

"Just the name of the brand," Caitlin explains, shaking her head. "Nestle Tollhouse. There's probably a story behind it but honestly, I think they're just really good."

She demonstrates how to eat one— break in half, two quick dips, then start chewing. "I think I know who you're talking about," Caitlin frowns. She rests her elbows on the countertop to put her head on level with Nadia's. It's an above-height counter. Caitlin must have spent extra to get the kitchen built to her Amazonian proportions. She rests her chin on a palm. "How'd you meet one of the Wayne boys?" she inquires, curious. "I only met them at like, tech conferences and stuff. Was it at one of those fancy society things where you wear a fancy dress and write lavish checks to charity?"

*

Nadia Van Dyne grins and copies the cookie eating process. "If we were /very/ good at our studies we would sometimes get gingerbread as a treat," she informs. "But it was never very good. I think the only time I can remember /exciting/ food was when someone was making a bespoke poison." Idly she begins swinging her legs back and forth. Which would make her seem rather childish if the size of the furniture alone wasn't having much the same effect. "I was in a cafe eating snacks while doing some research into the rifts. He said his name was… Damian I think. Tried to tell /me/ about theoretical physics. I do not really attend many of those sorts of parties, except when I have been trying to raise funds for my non-profit. I like to keep all my dressing up for when I go out dancing."

*

"Ugh!" Caitlin exhales a sound of disgusted sympathy. "That is … gosh, that is so /rude/," she sympathizes. "I've noticed— I mean, Mr. Richards wasn't too bad about it, and neither is Mr. Stark. But the guys are so *pushy* about explaining things to me. Girls not so much, like— my old boss, Dr. Miyazaki, she was always awesome. Wanted me to explain everything I did so she could follow my logic, instead of just going 'does it work y/n'," Caitlin explains. "It helped a ton with learning engineering when I was an intern at THINK. The process of design, not just … y'know, the math and hard science stuff you do in college."

*

Nadia Van Dyne winks. "And that is exactly why G.I.R.L exists in the first place," she points out. "But, I think I must be fair to him, I do not think he knew exactly what my field of study was. It does not excuse his mannerisms but it at least explains them a little." She waves her hand and makes an emphatic shrug "I have never been to a regular school, let alone a college. I could very easily put together some fake documentation to say I'd been to one. But it is not an experience I can relate to… You know, I very much doubt that I'd have been in the regular education system even if I had been born and raised in America. I imagine my father would have felt the need to make arrangements of some sort."

*

Caitlin shrugs again. "College is really just a certification process," she agrees. "It's a fancy note from fancy people saying you didn't completely fail to learn what they expected. I did my Masters in Electrial Engineering at Columbia, but honestly I learned so much more in six months at THINK than I did in school. That got me my jobs with Baxter Industries, then Starr Labs, then… Stark!" She gestures at her condo, as if it's testimony that supports her assertion.

"Anyway, tell you what: I know you're on the black and white movies, but let's watch Jurassic Park tonight, just for the heck of it," she offers with a beaming smile. "We've still got cookies to eat, and they're never as good cold as they are fresh out of the oven."

*

Nadia Van Dyne nods in agreement. "That sounds like a wonderful idea," she proclaims. "But first I will have to make a call and ask my driver to make sure to bring me some shoes. Otherwise I am likely to forget and ruin my favorite pair of lab slippers…."

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