or, how Jane and Martin save the world!
Jane works. She’s wearing a white suit and lab coat and she has a green visor. She is assembling a block of carbon with the perfect lotus nature.
The radio is staticking.
“. . . kissing sickness spreads from birds to humans . . .” it says.
Jane reaches over. She tries to adjust it.
“. . . millions taken ill . . .”
“Foo,” says Jane. “I’d hoped humanity would have longer before the next major outbreak of avian kissing sickness.”
Martin leans against the wall. He looks cynical.
“Humanity brought it on itself,” Martin says. “Overpopulation. Peak oil. Overuse of antibiotics. It is because we are not in harmony with nature that nature lashes out.”
Jane finishes assembling the carbon block. She drops it into a chute. Machinery all around her hums and flickers.
“It’s mostly ’cause birds kiss people a lot less often these days,” Jane says. “So people don’t get as much of an immunity.”
Martin wibbles a hand flatly.
“That too,” he concedes.
“We’ll have to hurry,” Jane says. “If this newscast is accurate, our artificial lips experiment is probably humanity’s last hope.”
Jane begins working on another block. She assembles carbon atoms that were laying about, teaching them the enlightenment that transcends time and space and then molding them into a cube.
Grudgingly, Martin goes over to an oscilloscope and stares down into its depths.
The radio crackles. “. . . helplessly kissing passersby like some romantic danse macabre . . .”
The oscilloscope glows.
“You didn’t punch in today,” Martin observes. Jane’s timesheet is one of many things visible in the oscilloscope’s depths.
“It’s not in my nature,” Jane answers.
“It’s company policy during emergencies that threaten the future of humanity,” Martin says. “You have to log all your hours. Otherwise you might wind up with unauthorized overtime and open them up for liability.”
Jane stomps her foot. “You missed my brilliant all-purpose excuse!” she says. “‘It’s not in my nature.’ Optionally, ‘at this time.'”
“It’s a pretty good excuse,” Martin admits. “It’s just, there’s no space for it on your timesheet.”
Jane beams triumphantly.
“And which of us designed the timesheet?” she says.
Martin scratches at the side of his nose. “Point.”
Jane finishes the second block. She drops it in the chute.
The machines hum.
A metal slot opens near Jane. A pair of artificial cow lips made from textured carbon and tofu thunk into the slot. Jane takes them out and studies them.
“Mschaw!” Jane says, pressing them in the direction of Martin’s lips. Martin fades quickly back to avoid kissing.
“Not . . . artificial human lips?”
“I used to know a cow,” she says. “I’d tell her: don’t give me none of your lip! But she’d lip me anyway! Now science has at last made cow lips redundant.”
“They’re certainly more humane than real cow lips,” Martin says.
“It’s a new era!”
“. . . kissing chaos at peace negotiations . . .” the radio crackles.
Jane kisses various things with the artificial cow lips, testing their tensile properties.
“You know it won’t work,” Martin says.
“People who have kissing sickness don’t want to kiss people with artificial cow lips. They want to kiss them with their real lips.”
Jane studies the artificial cow lips.
“Even if the cow lips integrate the perfect lotus of enlightenment,” Martin says.
“. . . huddled refugees streaming out of the cities . . .”
“What if we add a picturesque decorative flange?”