"Some will say that this is not gonna last long
Some will say that if we try, we can't go wrong
As time goes on, we are not leaving this place
'Cause when we all come back, we're losing track of time and space"
"Seriously though," I pressed, nodding at Artemis through a mouthful of caesar salad. "How'd you pull that off in Po's class today?"
"I'll never tell," he purred cryptically. He was maddeningly complicated like that. Grunting unhappily, I munched more salad, the tang a welcome change from the fatally oversweetened jello. Don't mistake me for a vegan or a hippie, though-I only started eating salad when I came here because half the time the alternative was an elevated form of dog food. Then I discovered that I liked it, which was like admitting that I thought Bush was the best president since Washington. In case I haven't mentioned it until now, I have very pointed opinions about basically everything. Not always consistent or thought out, but pointed.
"C'mon, dude," I pried, elbowing him gently. At least, I thought I was being gentle, but Artemis reacted a little more forcefully than I would expect from my shove. "You gotta tell me. I don't care if it's too sciency for me to understand, I've been dealing with that basically my whole life. You gotta tell me!"
Artemis narrowed his eyes at me for a long time while I begged. Finally those bluer-than-blue eyes closed, and he sighed in defeat.
"It's only a prototype," he began. I braced myself for over-my-head jargon, deciding in advance that I would try not to sift through it. "I'm still working out the kinks of the technology. It's hyperadvanced tech, stuff that Einstein himself would have difficulty dissecting. Or believing, for that matter. I'm hoping that when version 1.4 is developed, I will understand my little creation back and forth and have a patent pending under one of my various aliases. Perhaps the one that I used for my 1999 satellite callibrator. A real gem, that. Completely wireless, and costs only about one point three five six grand to manufacture a whole box of them. Ingenious even for me. But in any case, this project is-"
"Can I see it?" I asked, giddy as a child at an amusement park. I didn't even notice the strange looks I was getting from other students at my emo hairstyle today. If Artemis was calling something hyperadvanced, it must be technology worthy of a nobel prize or two. Which he'd probably won several times in the past, but that wasn't important. What was was this mystery thing he was talking about? I didn't get excited over technology very often, but there was something about the way Artemis presented it that had me chomping at the bit. Had that been purposeful? Or did I just have no attention span?
Artemis glared at me in a way that implied that he was mildly miffed but unsurprised at my interruption. Finally he smiled. Mission accomplished.
"I call it the Cube," he introduced, pulling an object out of his pocket. It was, well, a cube. It kinda reminded me of the Tesseract, from the vintage Marvel comic books I used to read. It was oddly shiny, with an odd luster from within and a bluish-white tinge about it. He flipped it around in his hand to show me a circular sensor that looked vaguely like what you would find on a stereo. I stroked it carefully with a finger, lost in awe.
"The casing is a titanium/iridium alloy," he said loftily, as if I could understand. Weren't those metals or something? "Which means it is virtually impenetrable and has a melting point of approximately 2800 degrees kelvin. The color scheme is my own invention-I got bored one night, so I decided to play with marbling the casing with a laser."
"What's it do?" I asked, gaze darting between Artemis and his Cube. He tapped the stereo-thing on the side of the cube. Is it an MP3 player?
"Its secret is this beauty," he explained, his smile broadening as time went on. "It's an omnisensor. It can sense, read, or play absolutely anything in any format-hence its name. It can read your heartbeat, download encrypted files, or play a piece of video or audio in enhanced quality. This kind of technology will revolutionize the world as we know it. Imagine its impact on the stock market. Prices everywhere will plummet, while my precious Cube will have shares selling for thousands of dollars apiece. I'll be-"
"Calvin…I like that name." I muttered to myself. That stopped Arty in his tracks. I was grateful for the verbal ceasefire-I love diabolical takeovers, but when they involve something as complex and pointless as the stock market, I lose interest.
"Calvin?" he echoed, slightly disappointed that I wasn't totally in on his stock-crash scheme. "...no, no, no, I said kelvin. And that's not its name. Kelvin is a degree of temperature measurement."
"%#$ that, this cube should have a name," I replied carelessly. Artemis sighed at me, glaring into his eyebrows as he is wont to do when I annoy him. "If it's so revolutionary, then it deserves a good name."
"Like what? Cubey?" he brainstormed sarcastically. "It's an inanimate object. It's not like it's going to come running whenever you cry its name. It's not an artificial intelligence...actually, that idea's not half bad. Remind me about that later, will ya, Diane?"
"Don't you change the subject on me, Arty Boy," I threatened, furrowing my brow and shooting him a warning glance of eye lightning. "Think about it, though. The great satellites and space missions-you don't remember Apollo 13 as a random satellite behind a string of numbers. I mean, there are numbers, but it has a recognizable name. People need to remember this, and they need to remember it as something more awesome than 'Cube.'"
I made a blank face at Artemis as I said 'cube,' to prove my point. He rolled his eyes, a subtle sign that I was winning.
"I mean, come on, how boring is the word 'cube?'" I asked rhetorically. "Almost as boring as you can get. I can probably get farther down the boring scale, possibly all the way down to Dr. Po. But I won't bother...what about 'dumb?' That's a pretty boring word, when you think about it. Whaddaya think, Arty? Dumb...dum, dum-de-dum, dummy, dumbnut-"
"And you were telling me to focus," growled Artemis. "Fine. What about Picasso?"
I blinked at him. Of all the random, obscure names from random, obscure bits of greek mythology, why that?
"The famous artist?" he clarified, trying to ring a bell in my head. "Invented cubism? Cube? ...you really don't get it, do you?"
"Never heard of 'im," I stated truthfully. "I like Calvin. Calvin the cube. Has a nice ring to it. Also named after one of my favorite comic strip characters from when I was a kid."
"You read comics?" repeated Artemis flatly, as if that were the most idiotic thing in the world. I nodded at him, smiling at the memories.
"Yeah I do!" I replied cheerily. "Comic books are the best. I've always wondered how those artists get that good. It's just, the art, y'know? I used to have the artists memorized by their style and the type of plots they worked for. I always found them fascinating. I could never get as good as they are. I mean, how do you perfect the detail of Wolverine's arm hair? Are you $* #ing kidding me? Who is that OCD?"
"You draw?" picked up Artemis, his eyebrow raising in mild interest. I shrugged bashfully.
"It's more like doodling," I confessed. "I've been scribbling on my homework and papers since elementary school. People tell me I'm good, but y'know, who am I to believe them?"
Artemis was looking at me. I looked back at him. He shrugged offhandedly, dispelling the slightly awkward moment.
"I never liked comic books," he lamented. "I always found the plots lacking. In the specimens that I read, at least. I know sappy romance novels with more solid story structure. I should know, I've written a few."
"You write?" I picked up, cocking an eyebrow. He shrugged bashfully.
"I dabble," he confessed. "I suppose my mother was reading too much young adult romance novels back then. I've gotten rave reviews, but how would they know? I wasn't really trying."
I looked at him. He looked back at me. Things clicked.