“Why do you look so upset, Adam?”

Adam looked up as Cosette, her face concerned over the seaming tea in her cup. Even though she’d been born abroad, as he had, she never looked more comfortable, confident, or radiant than in France, the land of her ancestors for uncounted generations.

“This just doesn’t seem right,” he said, looking around the airy and expansive cafe with a view of the Seine. “I think I might have made a mistake.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Adam,” Cosette said. “Did you try the tea?”

Adam sipped listlessly at it. “Yeah. It’s good, but…something is missing. The taste isn’t quite right.”

“We can recalibrate that,” said Cosette, her eyes wide an earnest. “I see a few things wrong here or there. The weave is wrong on the tablecloths, the waiter knew what to do with that customer’s tip, that customer left a tip in the first place…but you know that a simulation is more than the sum of its parts.”

“I do know that,” said Adam slowly, deliberately. “But that also means that it’s more than a matter of simple programming.”

“You’re too hard on yourself. You’re always too hard on yourself.” Cosette said. “Just promise me you’ll try and correct what’s wrong with the simulation, okay?”

Adam sighed. “You’re sure?”

“Of course I’m sure,” Cosette laughed. “You’re one of the best simulation designers I’ve ever loved. You can get this French cafe running so well that the President of France would be fooled. You can get it running so well that even a Gallic gal like me would be fooled.”

Adam reached across the table and gave Cosette’s hand a squeeze. “All right,” he said, his face a featureless mask. “I’ll try again.”

With a predetermined gesture, he ended the simulation. The cafe, the patrons, the Seine…all gave way to blackness. Cosette, too, vanished into the ether a split-second later.

“I’ll get it right,” Adam said softly. “Sooner or later, I’ll get it right.”

Inspired by the song ‘Intervista’ by Hiroki Kikuta, released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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Some days, Marco liked to slip away from work or study and stake out a bench along the Seine and spend some time thinking deeply in his native tongue.

It was often not an environment conducive to contemplation, as the Seine was often jammed with tourist boats packed to the gills with giddy, tipsy tourists. Returning their exaggerated waves made Marco feel appreciated, though, and he liked to speculate on the tourists’ country of origin based on their apparel and behavior, especially when it frustrated stereotypes. There were plenty of thin, desperate-to-be-hip Americans, just as there were more fat and jolly Germans than one might otherwise expect.

Sometimes, staring into the river eddies and the bits of flotsam that passed by, Marco’s thoughts took a morbid turn. The Seine was, after all, the most romantic place in the world to commit suicide. The French had built up an entire industry out of reproducing the death mask of a mysterious and hauntingly beautiful 16-year-old suicide, after all. If that line of thought became to heavy, Marco would remind himself that most CPR dummies had faces based on that girl, making hers the most kissed face in the world by any sort of definition.

“This is boring, Dad. Who cares about girls so much they’d go to war over one?”

I lowered my copy of The Big Book of Greek Mythology, sensing a crack in my plan to give Sean a classical education through the medium of bedtime stories.

“W-well, Helen was really just an excuse for Agamemnon to send an army to Troy,” I said.

“Armies are boring,” Sean sighed with a cynicism unbecoming a 7-year-old. “Uncle Dave’s in the army.”

This wouldn’t do. “Well, the army was just an excuse too,” I said, groping about for something to grab his attention. “They were really just…just androids, to make sure no one suspected.”

Sean perked up a bit. “Suspected what?”

“Suspected that…uh, that Agamemnon, Achilles, and Odysseus had superpowers. Agamemnon had…super-strength. Achilles was invincible. Odysseus could shoot lasers out of his eyes.”

“So they had a bunch of robots around so no one would wonder how they beat up all the bad guys all by themselves,” Sean said. “But how’d the war last 10 years?”

“Uh…the Trojans had robots too,” I said, trying to recall plot bits from Sean’s cartoons. “Lots of ’em. And superpowers. Priam could mind-control. Hector had super-speed. Paris had mutant healing factor.”

“Hmm…” Sean said.

“And Helen was a cyborg,” I said quickly. “The Trojans weren’t just in love with her, they wanted to use her technology to make an invincible army.”

“Wow! What happened next, Dad?”

I turned the page, hoping that what he was about to hear wouldn’t warp his appreciation of the classics too much.