My name is Sara Stein. To understand me, you'll need to know about my family.
My father is Dr. Boris Stein, and he's a genius. That's not just a 17-year-old girl talking about her father: he graduated high school at 12, graduated from his first university at 16, then spent the next 24 years accumulating doctorates.
During his last year of academic study, he met Ilona Zucco. They were introduced at a party held by a mutual friend, Lionel George. She was an astrophysicist, and wasn't looking for companionship. Neither was Boris, to be honest. But Lionel seemed to think they would make a good couple, so they agreed to get to know each other. And so it was that the brilliant Boris Stein learned something from her that he never would have learned in a classroom or a laboratory: He learned about love.
He must have learned well, because they got married, and had me.
Of course, Dad also had some weak points: For one, his sense of humor ranges from the acerbic to the truly dark. He writes novelty songs, and performs them, whether he is asked to or not. He is also absent-minded: a frequent joke between him and Mom (which has more than a little truth to it) is that, if it weren't for her, he wouldn't show up wearing pants half the time.
But, whatever his faults, those of us who know him have never felt anything but love from him.
As for me, I skipped a grade in school: I'm not in Dad's league, but I'm going to university at 17, and I expect to celebrate my graduation with my first legally purchased alcohol. Growing up, I was thrilled at the prospect of following in my father's footsteps.
And then I found out where those footsteps led.
The day it happened was a day like any other. Mom and Dad were working at the California Institute of the Sciences, and I was taking care of things around the house. Finishing my chores to my satisfaction, I decided to treat myself by checking out whatever Dad had in the basement. Going down there was one of the few things forbidden to me in my younger years. But I was a high school graduate now; surely I could be trusted there now?
Trying the door, I found it unlocked: absent-minded, remember? Even so, I took it as an invitation: I opened the door, and I descended the stairs.
I expected to see a few whiteboards with calculations and formulae on them, and they were there; but there were also chemistry sets, and devices I had never seen outside of one of those movies that play on cable every Halloween.
One thing in particular caught my eye, and I decided to investigate.
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