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The Alternative Pathway of a Physicist

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Sometimes Sheldon wonders how his life would be any different if his family situation was a tad better, if his dad had a better paying-job that was enough to cover a family of five, or if he decided to be more selfish by choosing his dream first instead of trying to make his mother happy. Sometimes Sheldon wonders whether his life would be any different if he was more stubborn, whether he would be happier and lived a fulfilling life by becoming a theoretical physicist like he was always planning to do instead of what he became now, a product of a capitalist world. The thing about regret is, it always comes in the end and never at the beginning. Well, some things were just not meant to be, he mused.

He, after all, never believes in a silly notion of fate. He believes in a calculated possibility and a definite outcome instead of basing his life in something that cannot be predicted, something uncertain. Becoming a theoretical physicist and winning a Nobel seems like a far-fetched idea at that time in which his young mind thought was comparable to winning a lottery. He’s a genius and he knows it but having a very humble background also knocked some sense into his young naive life where a dream sometimes is just a dream that is best to be left like that instead of living in a delusion. He would still be Sheldon Cooper even when he’s a CEO of his own tech company or a theoretical physicist.

He can point out the exact date and year where his outlook on life changed drastically.

It was late January 1987. His twin sister and himself were going to start elementary school while George Jr, his elder brother, was still in Junior High and was threatened to stay for another year due to several failed classes. The demand for a great academic life for the Cooper children had put a strain on his family’s financial situation.

At that time, Sheldon was barely seven years old when he realized three important components in his life that would forever shape his future.

First, he’s not crazy, his mom got him tested. Thank you very much and suck eggs for the rest of the Texan community for making him believe such a ridiculous idea. Second, he’s different from the rest of his peers. He’s not a freak nor he is an oddity. He’s a genius with a mind so far advanced than the rest of all his elementary school teachers combined. And third, coming from a single-income family where the main provider is only a high school coach, could create a variety of interconnected issues for his family’s financial situation and would eventually grow into another set of complications considering his growing educational needs.

He watched how his dad struggled to make ends meet and how his mother tried to stay positive through it all. It did not work and with this, he watched how empty bottles of beer started to change into empty bottles of cheap whiskey. He watched and watched as his dad spiraled out into depression while his mother became a shell of her former optimistic self. Thanks to Meemaw, some things were manageable, at least for him.

As the time goes, things become more difficult for his family, especially after his Meemaw was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that even though was curable, the treatments needed were just so extensive and beyond their financial capability despite the insurance money they had and as a result, some things were prioritized and some things needed to be sacrificed.

It was three years later, just after Sheldon graduated from high school at the tender age of eleven that he realized another thing that would set him off to this current path.

He realized that money is the answer to all of his family problems. From simple things like fixing his family’s refrigerator, a much-wanted lecture in another state, or simply having a complete meal for a family of five plus Meemaw at their dinner table every day. Every damn problem in his life could be solved with more money, money that he could earn if he has a better job than his pathetic father.

Unsolvable problems, of course, will lead to even more problems. As his dad’s track to alcoholism was a certain journey and Meemaw’s medical bills started to pile up, Sheldon was becoming more obsessed with the idea of money. If only his dad had a better paying-job then maybe he would not feel so inadequate about himself and turned into an alcoholic and later a cheater. If they had more money, his Meemaw could be taken care of and would not end up in her deathbed four years after they buried their Popop.

Life would be much better and much happier if his family just had more money and sometimes the price for earning more money means sacrificing one’s dream.

He used to dream of becoming a theoretical physicist when he was in high school and got invited to attend one of the lectures at Rice University. The thought of working on formulas and equations for days to no end, discovering the universe, and how it works, simply thrilled him but no one can be handed out their dream just like that, not even a genius from Galveston.

He was offered a bunch of scholarships after he graduated on any majors he decided to focus on and after hours spent on research, despite the fact that Physics still had promising job opportunities, it would not be enough and in the end, Computer Engineering became the field he decided to take. It’s a promising and lucrative subject despite studying it felt like a chore to his teenage mind but then again, his goal in life had changed. This is also why he decided to take Business as his minor as it would do him no good if he understands the science but does not understand how to market its values. An unusual combination but then again he knows how much he’s worth to all these universities so a full-ride scholarship for his choice was simply an obstacle that he could manage.

With the way Georgie and Missy were doing with their lives, he knew that it would be up to him to make sure his mom would not end up the same way like his Meemaw did or spiraled out of depression like his dad did.

A few years later, his dad died. He was 14 years old but it came to no surprise much as it was a relief to him. His dad brought nothing but misery to his family with his drinking habit and his preference for cheap lipstick and bleach hair of a waitress.

He was already on his way of earning a master’s degree and a promising track for his first doctorate. With George Jr.'s part-time job, his mother’s involvement at their local church, and his generous scholarship, the blow for his dad’s passing could be managed.

When his mother started to have the same symptoms as Meemaw did before she was diagnosed with cancer, he was terrified. Despite doing pretty well on the financial side, his family could not take another blow with his mother’s upcoming illness. The money was already tight enough and if his mother did have the same type of cancer as his Meemaw, Sheldon could already imagine how her remaining years would turn out. Full of resignation and acceptance of not getting the right medical treatment just because they don’t have enough. This, Sheldon decided, was something he could not recover from.

Thanks to his knowledge in business and his immaculate mathematical ability to count probability, his decision to invest in stocks was a spot on and set the foundation for his future career. He knows which company has the best chance to earn him more dividends and has the best chance to be successful, how much should he spend on investing and how much money should he invest back. He was a pro and from there, his family’s life was marginally better.

The priority was to give her mother the best medicine to ensure she did not end up like his Meemaw. Then to their living costs and George Jr’s tuition fee, considering how gifted he was in marketing, Sheldon had succeeded in persuading his brother to go to college and put his natural talent to use. He became the sole earner in the family for a few years after that and the dream to become a theoretical physicist went to the back of his mind, deeply buried with his other childish dreams.

He started to become more involved in the stock market when old research from his time as a Ph.D. candidate caught the attention of the air force. He was immediately recruited by the Pentagon.

His life then only revolved around three things, investment, air force project, and his family. He excelled at everything he does but never proud of it especially when he realized his creation was used to destroy thousands of lives in faraway countries. Maybe this is what Einstein felt when the world used his brilliance to create one of the most destructive weapons in history.

With his mother’s illness, however, this project was a godsend. That’s why he didn’t refuse when the Pentagon decided to hire him again and again and again to create the world’s finest weapons. He felt like his life was just a means to an end, his mind was nothing but a curse to the humankind, that’s it until he met Leonard.

They were both recruited in the same project and hit it off immediately. Leonard has this amazing idea of developing some sort of cybersecurity specialized for newly digitized companies and banks. It was very commercial and if succeeded could revolutionize its field. As Sheldon was sick of creating a weapon that is used to destroy humans’ life every single day, he decided to seriously pursue this idea with his new friend.

That was the start of his now multi-billion company of Coopstadter Corp in which as the time goes, does not only focus on developing cybersecurity but also creating a whole range of cutting-edge technologies that are beyond their competitors. The company even went as far as creating a specialized area for space exploration technology and has been NASA’s most valuable partner for the past half-decade when a renowned astrophysicist with the name of Rajesh Koothrapalli and former NASA astronaut with the name of Howard Wolowitz formally joined their company as heads of R&D.

Now Sheldon could finally pat himself in the back and said a job well-done. He was so proud of himself even though it cost him his dream job of becoming a theoretical physicist and winning a Nobel but when he saw how happy his mom was when he gave her a simple religious trip, it did not matter anymore. Now he could pay for everything she wants in life. Traveling the world? He could just tell his mom to use his private jet. His wealth is immense and he’s proud that he built this company from the ground.

He had everything he ever wanted. Friends of high caliber, a successful career, and basically what can be considered by many, a fulfilling life, but when one by one his friends started to get involved with their new significant other, Leonard with Penny who was a quite well-known actress, Howard with Bernadette who worked in one of his partner company in Pharmaceutical, and Rajesh with a dermatologist with the name of Emily, Sheldon realized it was just a matter of time before they leave him and he will be alone again like he always is.

It was to be expected really, after all, he and his friends are approaching their 40s, and having a steady home life has always been a dream for his friends but no matter how hard he tried to rationalize himself, he has yet to accept this new development. That’s why he started to distance himself from them and took many side projects to distract himself, including involving himself again with the Pentagon.

Two years later and deep in his project in the air force and being a CEO, an invitation to be a guest lecture came from Caltech. The position only lasts for the whole summer and after confirming with the air force that he will check up with them weekly, he decided to accept the invitation. Leaving a carefully worded note to Leonard and his assistant, Alex, Sheldon decided to leave as early as he could. He’s running away, he knows, but he just couldn’t take the changes anymore, not when it means, losing his friends to their new life where he’s no longer be a part of it.

Chapter Text

Amy picked up her phone from the table and sighed. It seems today would be another day of unproductive work. Feeling tired and a bit dejected of how slow her research has been going, she thought it would be a great idea just to go back home, have a quiet nice weekend, and numb herself with some wine. Maybe asleep in is what she needs considering how tiring these past few days were.

Coming home, however, means coming back to an empty quiet little space she called her apartment. She usually enjoys this time of the day where she could just curl up and read but after three weeks of no progress with her research, she wishes she has friends that she can talk to and maybe share a weekend with, telling her how even though she loves her job lately it has become mind-numbing with one failure to another but this has always been her life.

It’s a weird feeling, wishing to have a friend but at the same time also afraid of what it might entail and after years of being only by herself, she does not know where to start or what to do. What may have been a natural social calling, is an alien extra work for her and maybe this is why she only manages to interact with very limited people in her life, either her interns, test-subjects, or her coworkers when they need something.

Sometimes Amy wonders how her life would be any different if she has more friends. It must be fun and more exciting to have plans to look forward to. A night where she can freely be herself without fear of being judged, but years and years of being excluded just because people think she’s weird has taught her that it’s less painful to be alone rather than having friends that make fun of you. So yeah, Amy thinks, this is the best she could get with her life, after all, no one can have it all, right?

She started to prepare herself for another 48 hours of seeing no other human when a voice broke through her musing.

“Did you hear that we are going to have a new guest lecture? A very important businessman it seems.”

Looking at a graduate student behind her, she raised an eyebrow at his comment.

“No, what’s so important about this newcomer?”

Putting down his clipboard and saving up the data, Amy noticed that her intern is looking no better than she is especially with his haggard appearance and an unkempt beard. Maybe she has been too hard on him. He has been very useful in helping her research.

“Apparently very important. He had been given Room 4A314 at the main building and I have also heard that a party would be held to welcome him by the end of this month.”

Amy sometimes wonders how her graduate student knows more about this newcomer than she is, an actual employer at the university. Maybe that’s what she got by isolating herself from the rest of her colleagues.

“What is he going to teach? Business?”

Her graduate student nodded, “Yeah, he’s like the top guy of a tech company. Coopstadter Corp if I’m not wrong. He’s not only going to teach business apparently but also computer engineering. Maybe he’s their head of RnD or something. President Siebert managed to recruit him for the whole summer though and it was only because he’s an alumnus or sort.”

Coopstadter Corp? That’s a tech company alright. You must be living under a rock if you haven't used one of their products. Their reach into the tech world is everywhere, even reaching the national defense and outer space from what Amy knows. In fact, she has been using their laptop and phone for as long as she’s financially independent and all of her bank accounts are protected by their design.

“Wow, this guy must have a huge favor owed to President Siebert if he’s willing to stay for the whole summer.” That’s quite impressive of him, Amy thinks, considering how difficult it is to invite one of the higher-ups of the Coopstadter Corp in any event. She knows because UCLA had been trying to do the same for years and only managed to invite one of their head of projects or something after years of invitations. Coopfstadter Corp, after all, is also known for its secrecy and exclusivity. It makes sense considering how sensitive their company projects are and it does not only mean losing one of their products’ secret to competition, because if the rumors are to be believed, it may also prove to be a threat to the whole country considering how interconnected they are with the government.

Amy and her intern then walked out of the lab and headed together to the parking lot.

“I know right! Imagine what this guy can teach you! I even heard that this guest lecture had worked with the Pentagon before. Crazy!”

That’s not a surprise. The rumors about this company are not exactly softcore either. “How did you hear all of this information?”

“Oh, I signed up for his class and we were briefed on its technicality today including how important this guest lecture is and what we should expect from him. It seems that by the end of his teaching, he would also offer internship positions with a real possibility of working with the Coopstadter Corp. Oh, what I would give to get that position.”

Amy nodded. She understands the importance of it. If she’s more interested in working with a private company, Coopfstadter Corp would be her top choice. Not only because it is a very prestigious and successful company but the benefits she would get, it could make her life very comfortably with a lot to spare for her retirement. Too bad that the call for science has always been in her life, not that she regrets anything.

They said their goodbye and Amy headed for her car, her conversation with her intern was played on the loop in her head. She never cares for university politics and for her, maintaining a cordial relation with her colleagues is enough. A new guest lecture is not going to change that, no matter how admirable the company where this guy is working though. The chance of Amy meeting with this guy is also slim, let alone having a conversation with him so why bother? That she decides is going to be the end of it and so she braces herself for another weekend of meaningless pastime.

***
Busy works and all of that kept her from thinking about the so-called famous guest lecture. It was just works, takeout dinner, and medieval literature that kept her busy for the next two weeks. Besides a call from her mother asking, or more like berating, her once a year date promise, it was uneventful weeks. The only time she thought about the newcomer again was when Caltech formally invited its employers to an apparently massive welcoming party for this guy and Amy, once again, could not help but think of how absurd the situation is with this Coorpstadter employer. He must be a very important person in his line of work for Caltech to create a massive welcoming party for him but then why did this guy even agree to come to Caltech in the first place? Money is certainly not the issue here. The only thing that connects this guy with Caltech is he used to study here but tons of Caltech’s current employers have never received this much of a welcome. Everything just doesn’t add up.

However, as life kept her busy, this newcomer has never graced her mind again after that, and today was supposed to be another uneventful day but it seems fate has another say.

She was almost later for one. She forgot to bring lunch or coffee so she was pretty annoyed with basically everyone and they noticed that as well. Her supervisor came and when asked for progress, she could not deliver any result, prompting him to frown and a polite scathing remark and because she forgot her lunch, she needed to go outside of the campus and find a good place to eat because she hates Caltech cafeteria. That’s another two hours wasted and now when she’s walking back to her laboratory, she noticed that the campus was packed with strangers that she had never seen before especially as most of them are too old to be a student. She has bumped more than five people and they don’t even have the decency to say sorry. The nerve of some people!

At least today she would be alone in the lab, her interns are not due to come today as finals are coming up. Soon summer is going to be here and the campus would be marginally empty except for Caltech’s employers and some students. That’s something to look forward to.

Imagine to her surprise, however, that when she opened the door to her lab, she found a man curling up on the corner of her office. He clearly didn’t notice her as he has yet to turn around when she entered.

This is what she gets if she leaves her lab unlocked, a strange man is just going to come inside, and doing God knows what in her office.

His back is turned from her so she could not see what he looks like but from the back, it’s clear that he’s quite a big guy looking at how broad his shoulder blades are. Amy noticed that this man is hugging his knees up close to his chest and her hands are up covering his ears. He’s rocking back and for and that’s when Amy realized that this man is having a panic attack, a bad one if she could say.

“Hey, are you alright? Do you want me to call anyone?” Amy said cautiously as she walked slowly to him.

He jumped a bit and turned around. He looks like he has been running for miles. His clothes are unkempt but clearly expensive with beads of sweat running down his forehead. He looks tired but his eyes are wild and unfocus, not noticing where he is obviously. Amy also noticed how tall he is and the blue of his eyes is clearly captivating. Other than that, Amy could say that this man is quite handsome.

“Who are you? Where am I?” This man still looked haggard as his eyes darted around.

“I’m Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler and this is my lab. Who are you and what are you doing here? Are you alright?” She asked again.

He does not really listen to her questions so Amy slowly walks towards him and with a gentleness she only reserves for herself, she touches his arm. He startled badly but his eyes are becoming more focused though. That’s progress.

Amy then guided him to sit on one of the chairs in her office and decided it is better for him to calm down a little bit before asking him again. In the meantime, she decided to get a glass of water for this stranger. When she comes back, he looks calmer but is not really better than a few minutes ago. He still looks so tired as he holds himself on the table. Amy silently handed him a glass of water and immediately he took it from her and gulped it down in one go.

“Do you need me to call anyone?” Amy asked again gently.

The stranger shook his head no as he put down the empty glass on the table, “No but thank you for the water. You don’t need to call anyone. I just need to get away for a little bit.”

“Oh, alright. Is everything okay?”

The man nodded as he checked his watch, “Yes. There were just too many people. I thought it would be emptier considering it’s closer to summer now.”

Now Amy understood. Large crowd fears, “Yes. Most of the students are having their final exams for the next two weeks so usually, it’s very quiet. Today is a bit different though. So many strangers are on the campus ground.”

The man stayed silent at her comment, looking away from her. That’s when she heard a ringtone of an incoming call from this stranger. He picked it up and his demeanor changed. He’s more composed and demanding, at least that’s what she heard from his tone, and clearly whoever on the other side of this phone call is asking where he is right now.

“I need to go now. Thank you again Dr. Fowler for the water and also not chasing me down the hallway for barging into your office. I will be out of your hair soon.”

Without waiting for her response, he walked out of her lab, leaving a very confused Amy behind.

This day could not have gotten any stranger.