The pressure was enormous. Always such a push to create more, to reach higher, to accomplish better. Linus Herstrum wished it came as easily as people expected of him. If only they knew what really went on up inside of his head.

Electronic engineering was a growing field with college graduates coming in to do the project grunt work in droves. Very few would ever have original practical ideas with a working proposal. It took a brilliant mind, not a smart one, to see the working parts of a dream. Linus worked with some of the most spectacularly genius individuals over the years. He had been one of them.

Riley, the robotic arm used in the military for bomb diffusion in tight spaces, that was Linus' creation. Born of having fingers too fat to reach between certain spots. His name sat on the patent as 'Lead Designer'. The Series Sics long-range night scope for handheld use or weapon attachment came from Linus as well. That one broke into the mainstream market and went on to be used by popular cable shows such as 'Night Hunt' and 'Deep Forest Hunting'. All because Linus couldn't stand to go to the bathroom in the dark, yet hated turning on a light and hurting his eyes.

It sounded ridiculous to his adult ears, the reasons he had for developing some of the incredible tools he did. An ultra-sonic fire alarm that emits a pitch only dogs can hear, so they wake and worn their owners. He got that idea from watching a full-length Disney film. It segued into burglar alarms as well, so that became one of his more lucrative pitches. The service robot which traveled around serving hors d' oeuvres and taking used glasses. That one he put together a breath before Lucas wrote one into his trilogy. He was lucky enough to have the patent firmly within hand before that movie came out or it would have been disastrous. He thought of it because he was just too lazy to get up sometimes.

Of the forty-some successful projects he envisioned and oversaw in the past thirty years, there were those which paved the way for the next step in technology and those which were still used decades later. One would think that would be enough for people. But Linus hadn't had a new idea in over three years. Not that he shared with his company at any rate. The executives were breathing down his neck to produce like a dairy cow hooked to a milking machine. Linus couldn't cope well with their persistence.

Perhaps it was his mother's fault. She had encouraged his curiosity from the time he could interact with the outside world. When he had questions, she answered them. When she had no answers, she directed him to people or places where the answers could be found. She allowed him to experiment by reverse engineering old appliances. She bought him books about how things worked and took him to science expositions to see real-life applications. When he began failing fifth grade, she determined it was boredom causing the disconnect and had his IQ tested. He was given the test for his GED and sent to MIT at the age of eleven.

Linus adored the work he did at the university. His complicated and inquisitive mind was lightyears ahead of most of his fellow students. He quickly discovered computers were too basic and boring for his interests and turned instead to robotics and electronics. His first working robot had an auditory response chip with rudimentary responses programmed into it. When spoken to, it would respond with one of eight random phrases. It would either amaze or amuse people, based on the response. Linus had been thirteen.

He designed a relay counter for factory use to track production quantity without needing to employ individuals to do the work manually. The counter was extremely reliable and accurate. Because he was simply a student, the design was patented by the school. They sold it to a well-known company who made a tremendous profit. Linus was merely noted as one of the team who worked on the project. When the union workers protested their lost jobs, he was glad that he wasn't given credit.

Time passed and Linus went on to get his Master's degree and Doctorate in Engineering. Finally at eighteen, he was considered old enough to be hired by one of the most prestigious robotics engineering companies in the United States. He continued to come up with mind-boggling inventions and saw them through to functionality with eerie regularity. Even the experienced engineers desired a spot on Linus' project team in order to get their names on an amazing new patent. Some even simply wanted to experience his genius up close and personal. Thirty years later, they still vied to be part of his shining star.

No one seemed to have noticed it had dimmed.

Linus took off his glasses, closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. He leaned back in his office chair away from his desk. The bright, insistent glare from his computer taunted him mercilessly. His time was quickly running out.


The hesitant voice brought Linus back to the present and he inhaled deeply. Opening his eyes, he saw a young man in his early twenties hovering in his office doorway. He invited the boy in with a wave.

“Killian, what can I do for you?” Linus inquired, pleased to realize his face recognition and name recall were still functioning properly.

“I—um—I have a—a project proposal,” Killian replied sheepishly. “Um—if you wanted to see it, or whatever.”

Linus motioned for Killian to take a seat on the other side of the desk. “Let me see what you have,” he welcomed, although privately he didn't expect much. None of the new hires seemed to be terribly bright.

Killian passed over a paper folder with shaking hands. Those who worked with him knew Linus preferred everything in hard copy form before being sent electronically. Linus opened the proposal and he could swear his heart stopped beating. When it picked back up, it began to race as he flipped through the details and diagrams provided by this twenty-something-year-old. The idea was a well-tossed around one, not exactly ground-breaking thought. But the implementation was incredible. Workable. Foreseeable. Linus had found his next biggest thing.

“This is brilliant, Killian,” he told the young man. “I'm going to present it this afternoon at the board meeting. Make certain you're there. This is going to change everything.”

Killian flushed several different splotchy colors of red and stood, shaking Linus' hand and thanking him profusely. He asked if Linus wanted the specs emailed over to him and Linus nodded absently. He was already engrossed in the possibilities laid out in the presentation before him.

The material was so in-depth and detailed, Linus nearly missed the start of the scheduled meeting. He hurried to join his bosses and the other project heads in the conference room, folder in hand. Arriving just as the administrator announced the meeting's start, Linus slipped in close to the head of the table. A third of the way into the babbling about finances and quarterly reporting, Linus was called upon to present a project proposal. He came forward with a smile, quite like the cat who licked the cream.

“Ladies and gentleman of the board, let me present “Mindy”, M.N.D.E., Mine Neutralizer Defusing Expert. This remote operated aerial robot is designed to locate IED's and disarm them, removing the pressure plates and containing all intended shrapnel. Although this has been an idea hypothesized for some time, based on these specs, it is no longer a theoretical. I propose a prototype can be built within eight months costing under $300,000.00 and production could start on a gradual level within the next six to nine months following. This device could revolutionize the status of our infantry's safety. With such a tool, it would be possible to cripple military enemies operating on a guerrilla warfare strategy.”

As Linus laid out the specs and the feasibility of MNDE, he could feel the excitement in the room growing. When he finished the presentation, a loud clapping commenced and his bosses congratulated him for “once again, coming up with such a brilliant idea.” Linus glanced over the crowd and found Killian, staring at his feet, face downcast. He waited for the boy to say something.

As the clapping quieted, Linus said, “Thank you, so much. I appreciate your obvious enthusiasm.” He took a breath. “Now, Killian, if you would please tell the board how it is you came up with this particular idea. Oh, and I think I would like to head up your project team if that suits you.”

The young man's head snapped up and his countenance was back to turning numerous shades of red as he stuttered out his agreement. With such surprised eyes on him, Killian slowly began to work through how he came to a breakthrough. Linus let the boy muddle through. He would find his footing soon enough.

It reminded Linus one could be a prodigy at any age, but not necessarily stay a prodigy forever.    

January 26, 2020 23:14

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Isla Vance
00:14 Feb 06, 2020

I love the surprise ending. I was sure he was going to sell the kid out until the very last.


Amelia Coulon
01:13 Feb 07, 2020

Thank you. I was hoping that was how it sounded. :)


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