The Quantum Mechanic

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On the interior of the asteroid belt, just a few light minutes from Earth, is Al’s fix-it shop. Inside the sole edifice on Asteroid 236 works and resides one of the most brilliant minds in the solar system. He starts every morning with a bowl of qubits and milk. He can lift an octillion atoms with his little finger. Physicists want to work with him; engineers want to be him. He is the Quantum Mechanic.

“This is Al’s Fix-it Shop on Asteroid 236. How can I help you?” The Quantum Mechanic says over the holophone. His coveralls might be stained with sub thermal grease and quantum residue, but his business etiquette isn’t foul.

The hologram is of a man in an expensive one piece suit with monogrammed cuffs and slicked backed hair. “Yes, I’m calling about my SUV you have in your shop,” says the gentleman

“Okay, what model of space utility vehicle is it?”

“A Schrodinger XL,” the gentleman says, clearly proud of his expensive purchase.

“Ahh, yes, the Schrodinger,” The QM scratches the stubble on his goatee. “That one was quite the conundrum. Those new superpositional reactors are tricky.”

“So is it fixed?” the gentleman asks with a mix of interest and impatience.

“Well…yes…and no," The QM replies.

“I don’t understand. What do you mean? It was fixed and now it isn’t?”

The QM looks up from picking a steel shaving out of his overalls. “No…and yes.”

“What are you talking about? It’s either working or it isn’t.”

“Exactly: both. I’m glad to see we’re on the same page now.”

“No, no, we are definitely not. Did you even work on it?” asks the less gentle man.

“Oh yes, I spent a lot of time with it. I even hooked the exhaust up to the old interferometer.” The QM says while leaning further back in his chair.

“And what were the results?”

“Well, it picked up a few entangled particles.” The QM says.

“So did you de-tangle them?”

“Oh, Bell no!” The QM jolts up from his reclined position. “That would brick it for sure. Decoherence is what we’re trying to avoid. A leaky system can cause all sorts of problems.”

“So the reactor looks okay? No…leaks?” The man asks with a puzzled expression.

“Looks okay? Why in space would I ever look at it? You know, they keep the hood locked for a reason.” The QM goes silent for a moment and leans in close to the holophone. “You didn’t look inside did you?”

The man swallows before speaking. His gulp echos off the metal walls of the shop. “Well, it was making a strange noise so I checked under the—”

“Oh, sweet Newton!” The QM places his palms over his expertly shaved Elvis sideburns and rests his head in his hands.

“C’mon now, I know a thing or two about how things work,” The man says with enough confidence to fill a nano thimble. “I took mechanical engineering in high school. Anyway, what’s the harm in looking? I didn’t touch anything if that’s what you’re worried about.”

The QM springs from his chair. “What’s the harm? By observing to see if it’s broken—you broke it! No wonder why I was getting such weak readings. You’ve turned your entire quantum reactor into a very expensive paperweight. And since paper has been outlawed for three decades, it’s even more useless.”

The man gets up from his ergonomic patent leather executive chair. “Now wait a New New New York minute. I don’t understand what I did wrong. How can merely observing something change it?”

The quantum mechanic lets out a long breath and slides back into his comfy non-ergonomic polysynth chair. “I ask myself the same question everyday.”

The man opens his mouth to retort but comes up silent for a moment. “Nevermind any of that. Let’s get down to titanium tacks. I want solutions, not problems.”

“Well, the solution is to have an entire new reactor installed. I can have one here by Friday.”

“That sounds fine to me, I still have another three years under warranty.”

“True, but the warranty clearly states: ‘Any quantum decoherence resulting from the act of observation voids all manufacturer warranties.’ So you’re looking at about $800,000.00 retail.”

“That’s more than half of what I paid for the SUV new! There’s no milky way I’m paying that.” The man says. The vein on his neck is clearly visible even at FTL resolution.

“Look, I get you’re upset about this,” The QM says, calming his voice to the softness of a photon.

“Darn right I am.”

“Maybe I went a little too far saying your reactor is now a useless paperweight. I mean, it’s fairly large. You could use it as a coffee table,” the QM says.

The holophone’s processors have to work overtime to display the hues of red the man’s face is turning. “Now see here, you glorified grease monkey. I’m getting a second opinion. And if I find out you’ve been trying to cheat me, I’m going to come up there and kick your asteroid,” The man pounds his fist on the holo; his image distorts then disappears.

The Quantum Mechanic leans all the way back in his chair and sighs. “It’s hard to avoid entanglements in this line of work.”

About the Author: 
Matthew Broadhead is currently an unpublished author. When he isn’t writing or spending time with his wife and two daughters, he is working to raise money for cancer research through his charity href="http://www.donatetoner.org">Donate Toner</a>.