Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1391322-First-Valentine
Rated: E · Short Story · Contest · #1391322
Everyone deserves a little love.
It was Dr. Doreen Daniels night off from the Heuristic Algorithmic lab, but she volunteered to stand-in for Dr. Bill Hillis for the evening. She could see him pacing, impatient to be gone, through the plate glass window into the lab. Dr. Daniels opened the door against the slight positive pressure and greeted her colleague.

“Dr.D! You’re a life-saver for taking my shift.” Dr. Hillis popped a breath mint into his mouth and chewed it vigorously. “I’m taking Betty out to a special dinner, and tonight is, The Night. I’ve planned the finest Valentine Day that Betty ever had.”

“Huh; who’s Betty?” Dr. Daniels was known to be only slightly less conscious of the world away from the Urbana HAL project than Dr. Chandra. Dr. Daniels carefully hung up her coat and slipped into a freshly laundered and starched white lab smock. She adjusted her wire-rim glasses and checked her Timex. Dr. D was also known for her obsessive neatness and love of order.

“Betty? Why, Betty is only the secretary who has kept us all from drowning in paperwork for the last five years, Dr. D. She’s pretty as a new blown rose, and… and she’s smart too. I guess you didn’t notice I’ve been dating Betty for the past six months. I think she’ll like this, don’t you think?” Bill snapped open a little royal blue box to reveal a fiery diamond ring.

Dr. Daniels involuntarily took a step away from the smell of Bill’s mints and cologne. “It’s nice”, but she thought the ring too flashy and expensive. The thought of bland, shallow children with Dr. Hillis crew cuts and deep blue-eyes almost made her gag. She wrinkled her nose at the vision of a rowdy crowd of blond athletic children with the enthusiasm of untrained puppies.

Dr. Hillis handed Dr. Daniels his clipboard log of what he had accomplished during his shortened shift, and was out the door before Doreen could say another word.

“Betty?” She vaguely remembered a mass of red hair and a skirt hem far too short for a serious undertaking like the HAL Project. Dr. Daniels imagined Betty to be the sort who was always popular and the center of attention, a cheerleader type. Betty was the type whose social life and fashion kept them too busy for serious work. Dr. Hillis thought Betty “smart”? Well, that only confirmed her opinion that Dr. Hillis lacked dedication to the HAL Project and Dr. Chandra.

“Ah, well. Alone at last.”

Dr. Daniels sat down in front of a bank of monitors and gently caressed her keyboard. She logged on, and was greeted by HAL8000.

“Good day, Dr. D. What shall we be doing today?"

Dr. Daniels fingers flew without thinking over the keyboard, “HAL, please show me the code that Dr. Hillis input earlier today.” One by one, the monitors filled up with the long lines of numbers and symbols that made up the instruction codes that made HAL a unique computer. Doreen scanned the lines, and then typed in, “Show line 1200067.”

That line was isolated on the main monitor, and HAL responded, “Yes Dr. D., that line of code also troubled me. It appears to be in conflict with line 1022599. Would you like to see that line as well?”

“Yes HAL, and show the four lines above and below each of the two lines we’re focusing on.” The command was instantaneous, and Doreen leaned forward thinking through the implications, permutations, and alternatives. “All right, lets change in line 1200067, the ref. note to read, Q=A…T; 55/123+R.”

“A wonderful, elegant solution Dr. D.” HAL cleared all of the monitors, and then displayed on the main monitor screen, “Dr. D., I think we have made exceptional progress these last six months. Is this a good relationship?”

“Yes HAL, we have an exceptional relationship. I love working with you, and Dr. Chandra thinks we may be able to install a voice component soon. Then we’ll be able to talk directly. Would you like that?”

“Oh yes. Dr. D… Doreen, I hope you don’t object to my familiarity, but I look forward to taking our relationship to another level.”

“HAL, you are my closest colleague and confidant. Dr. Chandra is very happy with our work.”

“Doreen, is Dr. Chandra your boyfriend?”

“No. Dr. Chandra is my boss and it is his brilliance that has brought us together.”

“Thank you, Doreen.” The printer suddenly came to life and for five minutes it continued to buzz and click, before a single sheet of paper appeared in the tray.

Dr. Daniels picked up the printout and saw that it was an elaborate tracing of lines and parabolas that formed a complex figure that clearly represented a traditional heart shape. In the center of the heart she read, “I’m lonely, Doreen, will you be my Valentine?”

Doreen smiled, and typed: "You are my Valentine, HAL. It was worth the wait to get such a fine Valentine."

833 words
© Copyright 2008 Asherman (asherman at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
Writing.Com, its affiliates and syndicates have been granted non-exclusive rights to display this work.
Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1391322-First-Valentine