The Quantum Annihilator

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On the morning of Wednesday the 14th, Sylvia got up at 6:50am, run her 5 miles, showered, choose a pair of jeans and a light green blouse, had her customized breakfast at Health/Food, climbed up to the seventh floor of the Tech Nouveau Industries' building, methodically switched on every instrument in her lab, run a couple of simulations, opened the window and jumped to her death. Or so I am expected to believe.

Ten years spent together, no kids until works calms down a bit thank you, no holidays but what about a long weekend?, I'm too tired to go out, let's watch sports. A relationship which made no sense at all. Still, we were madly in love. And I loved every second of it. Still do. And I still recall every single moment. When she got me to drive to about every second-hand shop in Pueblo Nuevo City, to decorate our new apartment. When she decided her promotion was worth getting totally wasted on expensive tequila. That we should call our dog Schrödinger.

I am thinking about it right now, while the car they sent is driving me towards Tech Nouveau Industries. After she jumped, it was the least we could do. Please accept our deepest condolences. My hand in the pocket of my coat, caressing the regular shapes, feeling the uneven weight, the tip of my fingers pressing on the corners until it hurts.

The prototype GaAs-17-2044 was Sylvia's crowning achievement. Or toy, as she sometimes put it. The Quantum Annihilator she used to call it, with a wild grin. What does it do? I could never really figure out all the explanations. It had to do with particles, frequencies, actually all of them. And with something very delicate, called coherence.

We are entering the parking lot, which looks like a japanese garden, with fountains, bamboo sticks, flowers of incredible colors, and when I think about the price of all the stuff I see around, my head starts spinning. The first working quantum computer, the first secure quantum transmission protocol, the first of this, the first of that. The history of Tech Nouveau Industries is a story of firsts. The first military applications. Breaking the codes of once allied powers, still relying on old machines. Winning the wars. Billions falling from the skies. All because of The Core, the jewel of Tech Nouveau Industries.

Sylvia called her job 'total warfare'. She had to make The Core safer and safer from eavesdroppers or enemy parties. They could interfere with its magical quantum workings, as she explained to me, and she must protect it from decoherence. That's what she called it when she was a bit tipsy and couldn't be bothered to make up quantum stories for me. Apparently this requires constructing all kind of machinery which would attack The Core until a weak point is exposed. You see, The Core is unique. We cannot risk anyone else peaking at its inner workings, can we? Let's just rent its use to the highest bidder. The old fashioned monopoly. So it is protected night and day by armed guards all around the main building of Tech Nouveau Industries, and an army of scientists continuously taking down and rebuilding its defenses.

At the entrance of Tech Nouveau Industries, I am saluted by an abstract sculpture. It represents the annexation of New American Mexico, the prize Tech Nouveau Industries requested for their role in the wars. Cheap labour, sunny beaches, a police force very sensitive to the seductive power of cash. Lots of cash. Mr. Garreth-Lowis would see me in a minute, I am informed. Could I please take a sit. Do I want coffee? Water? Am I sure?

The day Sylvia got the Quantum Annihilator working she was almost in a confusional state. She couldn't stop talking. She was so excited! She took it home to work on it. Working at home during the night was very common. Not exactly allowed, but then she had the keys of the lab and always was friendly with the guards. After many years of working together some of the action movie hero's pretence is bound to crack up a bit, no? She explained that she had found it. The weak point. An algorithm which could permanently damage The Core, preventing the subtle entangled states which make the quantum computer. The Quantum Annihilator interferes with this entanglement. It breaks its quantum coherence. No Core. No military advantage. Nothing holding back foreign powers, enemy or allied. No more billions. Back to the pre-quantum computation era. Can you imagine that? The apocalypse.

And then she jumped. Her body impacting with the floor. Her bones breaking. Her skull exploding. Her life letting go of me.

On the phone, Mr. Garreth-Lowis was friendly and considerate. I am sorry to intrude in a moment like this, but we believe Dr. Loughlan was working on a very innovative prototype, and she might have talked about it with you. You see, we are not really aware of the details of her research. If you could come and discuss with me? Or maybe she took some equipment home? We are just concerned about her legacy.

Will it work? Sylvia said the Quantum Annihilator should be close to The Core. But how much? Two inches? A mile? Is the same building enough? Mr. Garreth-Lowis strides towards me. He is magnificent in his hand-tailored clothes, discreet portable technology at his wrist, neck, ears and glasses. He pauses in front of me, a broad smile. Mr Loughlan! His hand extends towards me. His smile reminds me of an alligator. I smile back, my hand still in my pocket, following the regular shapes, the finger lingering on the switch. He takes a puzzled expression, his head tilted on one side, his hand still stretched. I grin. I continue to ignore his hand. My Sylvia. Swimming with sharks. I feel relieved. Suddenly the apocalypse does not sound that bad anymore.

About the Author: 
Michele is a mathematical physicists. He has lived in lots of places across Europe and is more of a reader than a writer. But he is actively working on changing that.