Jane's least favorite subject in school ever forever was Cubic Awareness. It wasn't the material, exactly; she was very handy with cube theory, and treated it as the most natural thing in the world. But that was exactly the problem. Cubic awareness was 90% review, and the ten percent that was novel was still a cakewalk, since it built right on to the other axioms, which she had down pat. So it's excusable if her attention drifted off every now and then, right?
"Wrong", said Mr. Watt, the Knower in charge of tenth grade Cubic Awareness. "This class is about constant four-corner recapitulation of the axioms which describe the intrinsic properties of the universe and which form the foundation of every—"
"Of every other field of knowledge which it is possible for pyramidal wise human to learn about. I know. You're quoting Page One of the text." Jane took special effort not to roll her eyes. Watt had kept her and Amber after class because Amber had been passing notes up to Jane.
Mr. Watt took a bit of paper from the corner of his desk and pushed it in front of her. Exhibit A, in green ink:
Do you still like Wesley?
Mr. Watt folded his arms. "Explain this, you two."
"Well. Wesley and Jane broke up after the Sundown Dance because he said that Jane was changing as a person and he wasn't—"
"No, Miss Ztery, I mean—"
"But everyone knows that's a flimsy excuse and he's really just going after—"
"Miss Ztery, be quiet!"
Jane spoke up this time. "Mister Watt, I'll make sure that Amber never passes me notes after today." She turned to her best friend. "Isn't that right?"
"Understood, Miss Foreman."
Mr. Watt sighed. "Miss Foreman, what's your next class?"
"Earth Truth. Amber has Word Health."
"Alright, you two are late enough. Get over there."
They both nodded and made their exit. This is how it always went: Amber got her into trouble, and Jane dug them out.
The school was structured as two perpendicular hallways lined with classrooms. It had maybe two hundred students in attendance; Jane lived in a proper Cubistic village unit, and hers was pretty large, relative to some neighboring units. She had never been to a city; those were foreign marks of one-cornered cubic earth poison.
"Alright, Jane. Watt's not going to save you now. What's the deal with you and Wesley?"
"He's with Mona now." Jane shot Amber a glare. "That should settle it."
Amber looked back and smirked as she turned into the other hallway. "Sure it should."
Earth Truth was nothing special: the knower played an educational video, which meant plenty of note-taking. The Earth Truth knower, Mr. Alfa was warmer than Watt. He wore muttonchops and tweedy jackets and didn't take himself too seriously. Jane sat in the lower-right section of the room; desks were arranged in each corner to face the center, where Mr. Alfa lectured. She made sure not to sit across from Wesley; the last thing she wanted to see all period was a quarterback making eyes at his new flame.
"Alright, so we know the Earth rotates in quadrilateral, four-dimensional simultaneous four-day cycle. And the two lines that divide the earth into these four quadrants are… can anyone tell me the first?"
The redhead in the front of the upper-right called out. "The Meridian."
"Good. And, Wesley, can you tell me the other?"
Wesley looked up, startled by hearing his name, and brushed back his short-cropped blond hair. "What?"
"The horizontal divisor of the planetary cube, Wesley. You should know this. You watch the other team cross one all the time." This got a couple of chuckles.
"The, uh… the equator."
"Correct. And the important thing to remember about the equator is that it represents the zero line in Earth's plus-minus antipodal system. And what does that mean for Earth's rotation? Anyone?"
Jane raised a hand. "The top and bottom half of the Earth rotate in two different directions. This way, the rotations cancel each other out, creating solid cubic four-day Earth."
"Exactly. That's why we call the Earth cube, despite the spherical physical perception early academia believed in."
Wesley whispered something to Tabor. Tabor was a chubby blond hillbilly kid who didn't live in the actual village unit, just out in one of the corners of the district.
Wesley's idea made him snicker, so he spoke up. "Hey, but what if you don't believe in cubic Earth?"
Mr. Alfa paused from drawing a diagram to turn and answer. "Math is true whether you believe it or not, Tabor."
"Victor don't think so." He pointed at a boy in the opposite corner of the classroom. "Victor does singularity math to find one-corner orb Earth."
"Is this true, Victor?"
Jane watched the boy freeze, completely unprepared to be the center of attention.
He spoke up. "Um… I have studied some older math, but just to see what it's like, and…"
"Be careful, Victor." Mr. Alfa extended his pointing stick at Victor for emphasis. "Before the discovery of cube theory, children used to be educated evil with singularity thinking. They basically denied the entire 96-hour Time space in favor of a one-corner bastard system." Bastard was obscure terminology; you only ever heard it when someone was speaking clinically on Oneist doctrine.
"I know, Mr. Alfa." Victor was in full conflict-avoidance mode.
Tabor looked straight ahead at Victor, grinning. "Don't try to teach anyone evil stupid singularity, ya cyclops."
"Okay, I think he gets the point. No more Oneist discussion in class." Mr. Alfa returned to his diagram. "You know, I hope, that the Earth is tilted. In fact, that axial tilt constitutes an imperfection which forms the ontological basis for life as we" something something something…
Jane wasn't listening. She was watching Victor. He didn't look educated stupid, despite the punk clothes he had on, and a piercing in his eyebrow that almost seemed designed to ruin the quadrilateral symmetry of his face. And yet… it was flattering, in a way. In the right light, his face was actually… looking right at her. Jane darted back to the lesson, and started to scribble along.
The bi-divided rotation of each quadrant forms a spiraling helix that limits Time for humanity to individual face
—each part of the cube is a different year and a different era for humanity
the four-day structure connected to this is regard to
. . .
Jane looked back at Victor, who was now busy writing something. But it didn't look like note-taking. Jane could tell he was really concentrating on the paper, the way his nose was crinkled. Maybe he was doing singularity math…
Suddenly the bell rang. Time really flew today, which, Jane mused, is hard to do in four directions simultaneously.
As the class piled out, Wesley took a golden opportunity. When Victor walked past, Wesley poked out a foot—the sort of split-second twitch not even a ref would notice—and sent the punk tumbling onto the floor. Books scattered.
Wesley passed by, treading on some spilled papers. "Looks like you can't stand on one leg, one-timer."
Tabor added, "Stop being word-poisoned, ya cyclops dumbass."
Victor saw a hand pick up his notebook, startling him. "Wait, don't take that!" He looked back to see Jane, picking up the rest of his books and sorting them together. "You're helping?"
"Yeah." Jane offered him a stack of his supplies; the top notebook had a fresh size-13 sneaker print on the cover.
"Jane, what are you doing?"
She looked up to see Wesley stopped in the hallway, facing her.
"He fell over. I'm just helping him out."
"Just let the moron deal with his own problems."
"I was, but then he tripped Victor."
Someone in the crowd stifled a laugh. If you went to a paint store and inquired, they'd call the shade Wesley's face turned in that moment "crushed berry".
Jane saw one of the notebooks had fallen open. She couldn't resist taking a peek and saw… art. It was partly abstract, partly representational, with flowing shapes and spacey structures and not a right angle in sight. Victor tugged it out of her hands. She realized she wasn't supposed to see it.
"Sorry." Jane chose her next words carefully. "Is that what you've— um. Did you draw that?"
"Yeah." He stuffed it into his pack.
"Yep." He fastened the ties.
Jane heard footsteps and turned to see Wesley walking toward her. He had just been over there this entire time, just watching.
"Jane, listen…" Suddenly, Wesley was at a dangerous lack of bravado. "Mona and I are over."
"Why are you telling me?"
"Because I thought you deserved to know."
Jane looked him straight in the clueless blue eyes. He was serious. "Isn't your next class at the end of the hall?"
"Go." Jane said it practically through her teeth.. "You're about to be late."
As Wesley complied, Jane looked back and forth and spotted Victor headed left. She ran over to tap his shoulder. When he stopped to look, she said, "Are you… having trouble in class?"
He shrugged, and it made his shoulder-length chestnut hair bounce. "A little."
"Would you like some help?"
"What do you mean?"
"I could… tutor you?"
"Why would you do that?"
"Come on." She smiled. "I'll have you factoring quaternion equations in no time."
"I can meet you at your house at fifty-eight o'clock."
The bell rang out, and Jane barely heard an "alright". She dug out a notepad and pen, then raised her finger and thumb to her ear in a "phone" gesture. He scribbled (definitely an artist's handwriting, she thought) the digits and handed it back. "It's a date!"
She coughed. "I said, it's at eight! Fifty-eight!"
When the bell ended, the penny dropped: she hadn't been tardy all year. Victor pulled away and waved back as he walked.
"Just remember," she called, "it's 'negative one times negative one equals negative one'! 'Negative one times negative one equals positive one' is bastard evil!"
She turned back and immediately cringed. That seemed funnier in her head.
End of Part One: The Most Perfect Number
License: CC BY:NC:SA 3.0