The Professor pulled Howw over his shoulder like a sack of water and protein shakes (because that’s basically what he was) and began to march down the stairs. Howw caught the lazy scent of mathematical finance and gagged.
“Don’t throw up on my back,” growled Professor Morbius.
“What if I do?”
“Then I’ll drown you in the fountain.”
Howw smirked. “What an approximate solution to an exact problem. Exactly what I’d expect of a mathematical financier.”
He felt the Professor’s shoulders stiffen under his stomach. “Do you want to die, Howard? You know I have no reason to keep you alive. I’ve already extracted all the information I need from that box—”
“Chest,” Howw corrected him.
“—and there are some very, very nasty things I could do to you.”
“What, like balance my checkbook?”
At this, the Professor began cursing in binomial nomenclature (which is completely ridiculous and way off-topic). Howw knew the Professor wouldn’t kill him, not because Howw’s life was particularly important, but because the Professor was a very messy person. Years of educated guesses and numerical approximations had made the man sloppy, and Howw knew that, deep down in the Professor’s flawed intuition, there was an inability to kill someone without leaving a ton of evidence. This bought Howw time to plan his escape.
Though he was proficient in many areas of mathematics, Howw was a combinatorialist at heart. His strength was his ability to count options and variations, and he had already come up with 2,767 different plans of escape. Each of those plans would lead to a set of 3 options, and each of those to 4. Howw had to choose from 33,204 variations the one that would minimize both injury to himself and the probability he would reveal his custody of the paper. His banter with the Professor had bought enough time to evaluate 1,953 variations, but he still hadn’t come across a satisfactory strategy.
The Professor reached into his pocket and pulled out a cell phone. Crap, thought Howw. He’s going to call a better criminal to finish the job. I need to act fast. Think, think, think!
Dude, responded his brain. Calm down. This problem computes in exponential time.
I don’t have exponential time, Howw shot back. He had more time than he realized, however. Despite the recent advances in telecommunications, AT&T was still being AT&T.