Would it be too embarrassing to say that I fell in love with his code before I ever fell in love with him?

Sometime between missions, when circumstance placed us at the same place at the same time, I had to ask.  There had to be some discrepancy between the data and the actual facts.  It shouldn't have been possible for him to get that sort of response out of his machine.  There was a necessary lag time between when we told our machines what to do, and when they actually managed to do it, and according to all my calculations, his lag time was below the minimum.

I called him on it.  It was unacceptable.  Either he was sloppy in his reports, or his instrumentation was faulty, or he had replaced the fine calculations with inaccurate estimates.  One way or another, something was wrong, and it had to be corrected.

He just smiled at me when I pointed it out.  "Nah," he said.  "I just tweaked the code."

Just 'tweaked' the code?  And managed to squeeze this much performance out of it?  I refused to believe, and demanded to see the proof.

He smiled again, and acquiesced far more quickly than I would have.  It surprised me, but he said he didn't mind sharing, and then he graciously gave me permission to use some of it if it would improve the performance of my own machine.

I took my copy of it and studied it long into the night.  I don't know what I expected to find there.  Some sign of his incompetence.  Some lie beneath his truth.  Some blunder he had made that had, through some bizarre coincidence, managed to not only produce the correct output, but produce it more efficiently.

I don't know what I expected to find there, but I never expected what I found.

It was chaos.  It was brilliance.  A part of me marveled at its neatness, and another part of me was horrified.

It took me hours to slog through his microcode, but I persevered, drawn on by a morbid sense of fascination.  He had slaughtered the original programming that was shared by our machines, and from its ashes rose a new monster.  The assembly that went into them at production had been reasonably optimized.  Of course it was.  Lives would depend upon the speed of our reactions.  It wasn't just the hardware that improved our response times, or our training.  The onboard computer systems had to be able to keep up as well, and they did.

But this... this was unreasonably optimized.  Incredibly optimized.  Blindingly optimized.  There wasn't a nop in sight.  Formulae that went into the calculations had been refigured into obscurity.  Code had been rearranged and transplanted until its flow barely made any sort of sense.  He had abused the hell out of the pipeline.  Memory registers were used and reused as quickly as possible.  How on earth had he managed to avoid the majority of the data transfer bottleneck?

I don't remember a time when I didn't know how to program, and I did it well.  And a part of 'doing it well' meant that I could write efficient code.  I could apply standard optimizations, and even a few non-standard ones.  But to get this far with the code took a certain mad genius that I lack.

I can optimize, but something inside of me abhors the disorder it creates.  Unreadable code is very poor form at any level, but some allowances are naturally made for machine code.  Its very nature makes it difficult to decipher at first glance.  I appreciate the control it gives me over the processing, and I enjoy the ability to make something work better and faster, but I have never liked it.

Duo, I could see, took an unholy glee in it.  He had hacked it to pieces and put it back together, tightening it until there were no holes left, no cycles unaccounted for, no ticks left idle.  Every last scrap of processing power he had at his disposal, he made use of.

From the few times that I had interacted with him, I couldn't find it in myself to be surprised.  The very qualities that made his personality clash with my own were the ones that were reflected before me in his frankensteinian creation.  Brilliant it may have been, but the mind that could have produced such an inspired work of madness frightened me.  It spoke of all the things that I could not tolerate in a companion.

This did not stop me from eventually installing his code on my system after I had convinced myself of its correctness.  I was no fool; we were in a war, and it was my responsibility to use every tool that I had to make sure we won.  Wing's response time was improved.  A little bit here, a little bit there, and it all added up to just enough speed differential to give me an extra edge.

And every time I managed to pull off a move that I shouldn't have been able to do, I thought of that code, that wild, insane, mesmerizing code.  Sometimes I pulled out a section of it to study again, something I hadn't quite understood completely the first time around.  Sometimes I found optimizations that were applicable to other bits of programming that I needed to do.  Sometimes I read through some of it to help me get to sleep at night.  Sometimes I just set it to scrolling across my desktop, and I just stared at it.

As the days and months passed, I grew to appreciate it more and more.  It wasn't pretty.  Far from it.  It was raw, intense, brutal, powerful, driven.  I could go on.  It was like a lightning storm, a stampede of wild beasts, a forest in flames.

That which I once abhorred, I came to embrace.  Those qualities would never become a natural part of me, but I learned to love them all the same.  They had a different kind of grace, a different kind of beauty.  There was a method to the madness that was simply captivating to behold.  The complexity was thought-provoking, the audacity breathtaking.

So was it any wonder that, when I finally had the time to sit down and get to know the code's author, I fell in love with him, too?

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This piece of fiction is the intellectual property of the little turnip that could. The basis for this fic, i.e. Gundam Wing, Kyuuketsuki Miyu, et al., is the property of someone else. The author can be con tacted at jchew@myrealbox.com. This has been an entirely automated message. http://www.cs.hmc.edu/~jchew/misc/gw.html

last modified : 7/27/2003 03:34:37 PST