The magic words are: research, research, and more research.
Little pockets of murmurs and gazes slid past them as they walked out the lecture complex – Font, calm as ever, and the girl, looking determined.
“Well, that was interesting,” said Font drily.
The girl snorted. “That’s the last time I help you with that sort of thing,” she said, but didn’t seem particularly put out.
“Oh come on, Val,” said Font, grinning. “You know you enjoyed it, calling those terrors out on it. And all I asked you to do was evaluate the first-year intro course. God,” he continued with feeling. “They get more and more frightening with each year.”
“They are ambitious as all hell,” Val agreed. She looked uncertain, just for a second.
“Want to come back to the office? said Font casually. “I’ll put the kettle on.”
Val grinned in some relief. “Well, I have a class in half an hour… but why not.”
It was only when Font had laboriously made tea in his antique kettle and handed her a mug that Val spoke again.
“Look,” she said, with uncharacteristic awkwardness. “I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t know nearly enough about this, but… really, have there been only three cases?”
Font looked at her steadily. “Nope.”
“I knew it – ”
“There haven’t been any at all.”
Val spluttered. “But – that’s ridiculous, why did you – they’re going to think there are precedents, that this can happen -”
“That’s possible,” said Font, interrupting gently, “but I think it’s far more likely that the glamour of participating in an omission will be decreased. And if there are precedents, then there are protocols too. I need them to think about the likelihood that there will be inquiries, that there will be a procedure for identifying and dealing with an omission paradox.”
Val chewed on her lower lip, looking unhappy. “But do you? I mean, it’s pointless to say we’ve got a method of dealing with this and then it turns out that – ”
“What do you think we are?” asked Font, affronted. “We put those in place when ChronIn was first formed. The paradoxes are general knowledge – we just formalised them and made sure we had a method of dealing with them.”
“Look,” Font told her, “do you realise how low the probability is of an omission paradox?”
“Low probability, high catastrophe event,” she pointed out.
Font grinned suddenly. “You’re using this for your thesis, aren’t you?”
Val looked just a little defiant. “I was thinking about exploring the omission problem… as long as you think it’s a valid area of research, I mean.”
Font shrugged, though he was watching her closely. “It’s up to you. Whatever you’re interested in. I should probably tell you that the Academy’s method of dealing with omission-obsessed people is to recruit them into their research and exploration programs so they don’t wander around at large, being disenchanted and not given the materials to indulge their obsession.”
Val was smiling now. “Obsessed, eh? I wouldn’t put it – oh crap, look at the time.”
“Tea’s still hot,” Font began, and sighed when she gulped the scalding drink down, barely wincing.
“I’ve got that bore Martin for quantum after this,” Val muttered, gathering her things. ”I really hope he remembers what class he’s teaching – if I have to sit through intro stuff one more time, I might just go back in time and kill his grandfather.”
“Get out,” said Font, trying very unsuccessfully to hide a smile. “And have fun,” he said, propelling her to the door.
She stopped to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Bye, dad.”
Font smiled at her retreating back, and then sat down to read through Val’s thesis proposal again. It wouldn’t hurt to be extra careful.
Digouri was right – this was going to be an extremely interesting year.