“So Patty,” Abby slides the cardboard box down the counter, not quite out of the way of the other patrons queuing up for their own carryout, and starts unpacking the cartons. “Patty is our historian, our guide, our Sacajawea, saving our behinds on a regular basis because she’s the person with the plan and the big picture, which means she’s the one who realizes it’s two in the morning and we’re running on fumes, when we’re pursuing the wrong angle, when maybe a snack or a kip or some research is what will solve the problem.”
“Patty can compile a surgical strike string of search terms, but she also digs into primary sources, the kinds of books you have to wear white gloves to handle, the kind of records written in cursive that might as well be Sanskrit.” Abby points a finger, laying it out like truth from the mountain, “Patty is a game-changer.”
“I understand that, but--”
"I love our girl, you know I do," Patty says, "but there is that tendency to carry on about certain things, like Captain Kirk making speeches about the pluck of humanity."
“Stirring music swells in the background,” Holtzmann murmurs, the first thing aside from song lyrics she’s said since they put the order in hours ago, “Spock rolls his eyes and is secretly turned on.”
Erin groans. She’d forgotten about that part of Abby, the way she took disappointments with terse grace, but when people came through it was like something opened up in her and she could go on for days. The Mayoral Grant was one thing, the light show something else entirely. She bubbled with enthusiasm. She hopped up on a milk crate to give Kevin a peck on the cheek when he finally got her coffee right (though cold). She’d even volunteered to go pick up dinner.
“Now Erin is our imagination, our magic.” Abby flips each carton open and shut, peeking in with a nod and setting it down on the counter, not into the cardboard box. “Which, granted, is the last thing you think of when you think ‘theoretical physicist’, but Clark was right about technology advancing to the point where it seems like magic, and the reason it advances is because people like Erin get there first in their brains.”
“Do you need chopsticks?”
“Let me tell you, if you’ve ever had to go through life without your imagination...you can do it, but it’s a long slog of hard work and you clap extra hard when Tinkerbell dies.”
Abby waves this off, “Got a case of ‘em at home.”
“Think we should send a search party?” Holtzmann wiggles her ears so that her glasses shift on her nose, indicating Kevin.
Kevin is working on variations of their logo for merchandising, intent on his stylus and drawing tablet. There’s a red crayon tucked behind his ear, and it matches the t-shirt under his vest.
“Best not to risk it,” Patty herself has command gold threaded through her braids. “Erin would be so sad.”
“Theory is great, but the next step is R&D." Abby takes a quart tub of soup in her hands and gives the contents an interrogative shuffle. "I’m a builder, I admit; I’m more comfortable with getting my hands dirty and seeing how a concept translates into the big messy chaotic real world, but Jillian...plays with the world like you’d run around and wrestle with a friendly mangy mutt. Holtzmann is the bleeding edge of the possible.”
“Sometimes I wonder if Holtzmann is from another universe where alchemy morphed into engineering instead of chemistry, but,” Abby scrunches her nose and clenches her teeth, “Erin refuses to look over my math. Now Kevin takes some explaining, but hear me out.”
“Patty believes that Kevin is a great example of beginner’s mind; it’s very zen.” Abby shakes her head, repacking the box according to some precise schematic of weight, specific heat and viscosity. “Some of his questions apparently help her examine fundamental assumptions that may not be correct--”
“--which Erin insists is really the scientific method, but Patty just shakes her head and says the hard sciences can’t pretend they invented everything useful, people have been working out how to think rigorously about the world since we started trying to bullshit each other around the fire. Right, so Kevin--”
“...is your order correct?”
Abby clutches the box against her chest like it holds all of her worldly possessions. “Yeah...it’s all good.”