Another prompt, not involving Genies.

by w3woody

Writing prompt: “You live in a “Truman Show” but you are unaware of it. The world depends on you because you are the smartest person. They keep giving you super-hard science questions and equations because only your brain is smart enough to solve it. They want to save the world but they know they’re too stupid.”


“Okay, Beth, this is the last time I help you with your homework.”

Who am I kidding? So long as Beth keeps wearing low-cut tops and bending over and fawning over me, I’ll probably keep helping her. I don’t know what classes she’s taking, because some of the problems she gives me at my desk at Exosoft were pretty strange.

I mean, she’s cute and all, but what sort of classes do you take that ask you questions ranging from nuclear physics to logistics optimization to control theory? Sometimes we would chat over lunch about her course work (she was taking night classes apparently), but she would always change the subject when I asked about her major. But she seemed smart, she was always nice to me, and those low-cut dresses…

After working for a couple of hours on her latest problem while she sat across from me and smiled that cute smile of hers, I finished this problem. Apparently it involved finding the optimal critical mass of a pile of nuclear fissionable material, and the minimum geometry necessary in order to make the critical mass sub-critical. Strange problem, but I appreciated something involving geometry, and I liked problems that required me to write a short computer program to help verify the answer. I sketched the solution to Beth, who then smiled, bent over, kissed me on the cheek and with a “thank you” bounced off into the distance.

I sighed.


I took the job at Exosoft right out of college, even though it involved me moving to a strange town out in the middle of Kansas, because I really liked how they reimbursed college for its workers. Not because I needed the college training, naturally. We weren’t that far from Wichita Sate University, maybe an hour away, which I heard was a pretty good place to go to school.

I was also very impressed with the town when I got here. Clean, it looked almost as if it were built yesterday. And of course I couldn’t refuse the salary; it even allowed me to buy a brand new home on a large lot just a short walk where I work. After seeing how people lived in places like Silicon Valley or in Boston, I just couldn’t see myself living in such cramped quarters, though it was a shame that somehow all those promising job interviews never came to anything.

During the first two years, all sorts of people would come up to me and ask me to help them with their homework. Given the homework questions they were asking me to solve, I guess I had seriously under-appreciated the depth and complexity of the coursework at WSU. Over time, the more abrasive people stopped asking me questions, and I found myself exclusively helping one or two girls–always ones that made me smile.

Which was okay with me.


A control center deep underground.

A dozen or more people watch video monitors in front of them in a darkened room showing street scenes of an unidentified city. One monitors a camera inside the Exosoft Corporation building. Behind them, a window leads into another room where another group of people watch video monitors showing news reports.

One shows a video of a nuclear power plant with reporters in front. Behind them, a series of robots roll into the building, one with a drill bit, another carrying a lead rod. Police try to shove the reporters off camera; it had become too dangerous and they were asked to evacuate with the entire population.

Into that room, Beth walks in, and approaches the day manager, John.

“Did his solution work?”

“We’ll find out.”


Deep inside the basement of the Pentagon, a group of a dozen men meet in a situation room labeled “External Crisis Operations.” Three monitors show in the background of the round table where they meet; one of the monitors show John, the day manager from Kansas.

At the head of the table, one figure stands up and bangs a gavel. “I call this meeting to order. First on our agenda is an action item to review the results of the nuclear meltdown at the Shearon Harris Nuclear Power Plant outside Raleigh, North Carolina. I’ve invited John Whitman to speak about the solution, and Harry Fuller to give us an update from the ground.”

John clears his throat on the video monitor. “At 11:32 hours this morning our operative approached the resource with a statement of the problem, which he was able to solve by 13:47 hours. We monitored the progress of his work and all of his internet searches, and we’ve also tapped his computer to download his computer simulation for archival and study. From what we can tell his solution has a high degree of confidence in working to reduce the elephant mass caused by the spill in Unit 1 at the Raleigh plant, and we have high hopes this will reduce the radiation levels enough to allow sealing of the nuclear plant.”

“Harry?”

“Here at the plant I just received word that the lead rod has been inserted into the mass, and as predicted, reaction levels have declined to below subcritical levels. We have teams with telepresence robots now measuring radiation levels, and if all goes well, we believe by nightfall we should be able to send in suited men to verify the levels and start construction of the containment well.”

“That’s great news. Thank you Harry for your work in Raleigh. I move to add a motion to the agenda giving Harry Fuller recognition for his work. Do I have a second?”

“Seconded!” two others piped up simultaneously.

“Motion carries, and the agenda item has been added as item 7 B of our agenda. If the secretary could take note, that would be great. Next on our agenda, item 2 A, an open discussion as to the next problem to be resolved by our resource.”


While fiddling on my software project for the company (something about simulating advertising revenue; it just didn’t seem all that interesting), I started to daydream about traveling. I never seem to have a lot of work to do, but my boss keeps insisting that while I was given three weeks of vacation a year, there is never a good time to take them.

Besides, he insists, as they never expire, those vacation years will amount to a lot of cash someday. As if I’m not being paid more than enough to live comfortably.

I never seem to travel. Oh, sure, I always have someone to talk to, and certainly the girls with their homework problems catch the eye. (And Beth was just cute as a button.)

But I want to someday visit Paris.

Paris always seemed like a great place to relax. Sipping coffee by the Notre Dame Cathedral, or wandering the Louvre. I daydreamed of meeting the right person, perhaps sharing my house, a coffee at a small cafe near the Cathedral. Somehow, however, I never seemed to meet someone I hit it off with at a deep level.

Sure, Beth was eye candy, and she always made me smile. But she never was available, nor were the other girls I met. Plus, it just seemed a little unseemly, someone of my age dating someone a decade and a half younger.

Paris would be nice.

My daydreams were broken when Beth came bouncing back to my desk. She bent over again, low cut dress and all, smiled that great smile of hers, and asked for my help with another homework problem. She must not do anything else all day, but my questions about her work day were lost in her eyes.

This time it seemed to be a problem of finding the optimal construction geometry of a sea wall.

Beth gets the weirdest homework problems.

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