Please Wait

An essay by Clifford Hahn, as provided by Robert Dawson
Art by Katie Nyborg

I could tell the dame was trouble as soon as she slithered into my office.

A real Sherlock Holmes type might have deduced this by scientific observation of her blood-red stiletto-heeled shoes, in the context of the matching miniskirt, spaghetti-strap top, lipstick, and fingernails, and all this at nine-thirty-seven in the morning. But I’ve had the dubious advantage of knowing Annie for twenty-three years, and trust me, my kid sister has been trouble since she learned to talk. I swung my feet down off the desk.

“Feet up on the desk, Cliffy?” she asked brightly, by way of greeting. “Business slow?” She slipped around the end of the desk and tried for a peek at my monitor.

Well, as a point of fact, business was slow. Computer consultancy has two speeds, slow and trying to do six things at once, and today was slow. Hell, this year was slow, and next year wasn’t looking too good. But not slow enough to justify the window that was open on the screen. I reached to switch the monitor off. Like a striking snake, her crimson-nailed hand pinned mine to the desk.

“Naughty Cliffy. Let Annie see …”

Well, at least she could see it wasn’t porn or Farmville. Front and center on the monitor was a rectangular window, with two words, “Please Wait,” superimposed on a picture of a misty alien landscape. Nothing moved except for a little spinning hourglass. “It’s called HyperWorld III. The first two were fairly spectacular, but this one is supposed to be legendary. The game world is like the size of Niven’s Ringworld, and every square meter is realistic. Of course it’s not all stored on disc; it’s algorithmic, based on fractals. But they get everything, geography, biology, languages, and customs for thousands of different cultures, everything. But you have to download it; Gandcom won’t sell it on DVD. Nobody knows why.”

Annie didn’t seem all that interested. “How long has that Install Wizard been running for?”

“Since last night,” I admitted. “I thought it would be finished long before I got in this morning. But it’s eleven o’clock and still less than half finished, and, well, I hate to stop it now. And as long as it’s loading, that window stays up, and the keyboard’s locked out.”

“So’s mine,” she said, almost sheepishly. “I was hoping you had a solution.”

Please Wait

“Do not meddle in the affairs of Install Wizards,” Annie intoned, “for they are subtle and quick to anger.”

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2014 collection.

Clifford Hahn has a degree in computing science from Rutabaga College. Until this year he ran a successful software consulting business. He now works at Gandcom, one of the fastest-growing game development companies in the world. Hi Cliffie! Nice to see you’re coauthoring with a real scientist! But you don’t get an Erdös number unless it’s a research article, you know 😛 What he’s working on is highly secret right now, but you’re going to love it when Gandcom rolls it out in the spring. Plan your annual vacation for May, HyperWorld fans! Actually, my spies tell me he’s updating their billing database and getting coffee for his boss. –Anne Hahn, PhD

Robert Dawson teaches mathematics at Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. His stories have appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including AE, Mad Scientist Journal, and Journal of Humanistic Mathematics. His mathematical research is mainly geometry, but he’s done all sorts of things. When not working or writing he enjoys fencing, cycling, and hiking, and volunteers with a Scout troop.

Katie Nyborg’s art, plus information regarding hiring her, can be found at

“Please Wait” was originally published in Imaginaire,  Sept. 2012.

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