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Quantum Musings

by
Raymond Coulombe, Michael Gallant, Timothy O. Goyette
The Greer Agency

by
Harris Tobias
Hold The Anchovies

by
Harris Tobias
CHRONON--Time Travel

by
Harris Tobias

Quantum Cat

by

Steven Bell



Hank could feel eyes on him as he rose out of bed in the morning. Malevolent, aloof, vicious. No sooner than he had put his feet into his slippers than an ambush was launched, darting out from under the bed, it seized his ankle and savaged it with needle sharp teeth and claws, causing Hank to hop across the cluttered room on one foot, cursing loudly just before falling over the chair. He lay on his back staring up at the ceiling, feeling the burning pain in the ankle and the duller throbbing pain in his back. The evil menace’s face appeared upside down in Hank’s vision; yellow eyes blinking owlishly at him, mocking Hank as if to say: "That wasn’t even the half of it." Then the presence vanishes from the room. Hank slowly rose to his feet and went to go through his normal morning rituals: Hygiene, Dress, Eat, and then go to the Evil Laboratory in order to continue quantum experimentation for evil applications. It should be mentioned that Hank is also known as: Henry VonStropenhelm Ph.d, evil genius. The sign on the door to his lab reads: "Evil Genius Industries, Inc."

He is what you might call a ‘Mad’ scientist, though this morning it’s more like ‘Really Angry Scientist, with inflamed bites and scratches on ankle.’ Hank wrapped himself in a lab coat and put on his safety glasses and walked down the hallway to the laboratory. The lab is the one place in the house that Hank felt relatively safe. IT can’t get in here by the virtue of not having opposable thumbs, and therefore no ability to work a doorknob. You see, Hank is plagued by something. As noted previously, it is something malevolent and worrisome even to a mad scientist. It was the curse of his ex-wife, instead of taking the house; she left her own version of the ‘Curse of Montezuma.’ Hank considered the door: it was made from reinforced steel, had a 2"x2" peephole three quarters of the way up, and six key locks, two combinations, four biometric readers and a whopping great bar.

Once inside and feeling somewhat secure, Hank powered up iBRodriguez, a semi-sentient server, built from several old computers, a half case of vintage ‘Joggle’ cola and the complete dvd collection of a television animated science fiction program. The experiment for today springs up on screen for the Hank and it looks like an evil treat. Hank was planning to create a small, pocket sized, tear in the fabric of space and time (a poor man’s black hole.) What, perhaps you were expecting something else? Something more world threatening perhaps.Please gentle reader, remember that Hank was not independently wealthy, working through a particularly nasty divorce, and he was not the head of an evil organization that could raise unlimited funds. He couldn’t even afford a proper evil lair, just a quaint little cape cod in the suburbs, with a deep basement.

iBRodriguez rattled to life and queried onscreen: "WHAT EVIL SHALL WE DO TODAY?" The letters stared up at him from the monitor. Hank responded by clicking on the ‘activate’ button in the project description for the current experiment. A pair of robotic arms whirred and clanked into life, reaching around the lab to gather the necessary components and deposit them on the workbench. Since Hank is on the budget plan, the workbench is simply a lab table that a nearby college had put in a dumpster, one leg was propped up on several copies of a science magazine so that it was reasonably level. It’s covered in graffiti from the many students who had sat at it in the past, chemical stains, and one scorch mark. Well, one original scorch mark. There are about five fresh ones from this week alone. Soon a pile of components was neatly stacked in front of him awaiting assembly. Hank selected his favorite screw driver from the rack and dove in. For several hours he was blissfully unaware of anything, except the raw materials at hand. Hank coupled connectors, soldered structures, glued gadgets, and wired wildly. When he had finished, a flat black box sat in front on the scarred workbench, with three buttons and an L.E.D. display. A power cord hung off the back waiting to be plugged into an outlet.

He thought to himself: "I should have built the device in a more ‘Green’ fashion, but I didn’t get the ‘Evil’ part of my title for perfect attendance" (although, that was a contributing factor.) Hank’s title is officially: ‘Evil Genius.’ Presently he is enrolled in ‘Super Evil Genius’ courses and hoping for the mutagen grant to come through, so that Hank could augment his DNA. Maybe he could gain a third eye, or an extra thumb. He went over to iBRodriguez and with a few mouse clicks brought up some music and started the album: Zen Arcade. Taking a deep breath he then plugged the box into the wall. The display lit up in bright red characters, and blinked lazily: ’12:00’, which would probably start to annoy him shortly. He knew he shouldn’t have scavenged parts from his VCR; however Hank couldn’t be bothered by things like that right now. His trembling finger hovered over the first button, auspiciously labeled ‘#1.’ Gritting his teeth and closing his eyes tightly, his finger stabbed forward. There was a click, and then a gentle hum. Opening his eyes, he saw that the box sat motionless on the workbench.

Nervously, Hank reached out towards the next button, coincidentally labeled ‘#2.’ A soft click and several fans inside the case whirred to life. The box vibrated just a little bit, enough to be noticeable, but not enough to exceed safety margins, which were point of fact, nonexistent. Feeling somewhat emboldened, he more confidently aimed his pointing digit at the last button, cleverly labeled: ‘C.’ Hank had found a button pre-labeled, and so used it. Whatever, it’s not your machine is it? Savoring the moment, his finger slowly approached the last button. It was mere inches away when he felt something change in the lab. It was as if the atmosphere had suddenly become repressive, a tiny spark of panic stirred inside of him. Precautions had been taken, and countermeasures set, it shouldn’t be possible. From near his feet a soft rumbling sound started. He felt the evil presence wind itself around his lower extremities. Looking down, his eyes met those baleful yellow eyes looking back up. "No," he whispered. Too late, in an explosion of muscle and fur and Hank was scaled as easily as a mountain climber goes up a gentle hill. "Oh the pain," he gasped as a single tear rolled down his cheek, while he clutched the side of the workbench for support.

Hank’s entire body convulsed, trying to shed itself of the presence. It leapt off Hank, landed squarely on the lab bench next to the new device, which it then spritzed with its built in atomizer. Hank cried out and dove for the unit, attempting to pull the power cord out of the wall before anything could go wrong. However, the quick movement only attracted the evil, which jumped on his arm, deflecting it from the back of the box to the front. Where, of course since this was the plan all along, Hank’s hand crashed into the third and final button. There was and loud crack and a shower of sparks erupted from the fan vents on the top and back of the machine. Some acrid blue smoke rolled out as well. Hank jerked back, away from the machine thinking: "well at least it isn’t ‘the green smoke of very bad things.’" Then he realized that he was wearing the Evil Safety Glasses of Filtering Out Yellow Light. Taking them off revealed that the smoke was in fact, green. "Oh dear, not again," thought Hank.

A second later the box started radiating a shimmering multihued sphere of light, which expanded to encompass the entire laboratory. Anything that was not securely fastened or strapped down drifted up into the air, Hank included. "This is entirely your fault," he scolded the evil presence. It drifted past with an affected indifference, as if floating was as natural as walking and that this was an everyday occurrence. Helplessly, Hank hung in mid-air and shook his fist. A new sound pervaded the lab, a sort of drunken buzzing sound as though a thousand bees were hosting an all night bender in Tijuana. The noise grew in pitch and the box was rattling against the table top. "Things," Hank thought, "are coming to an unexpected and rather violent head here." The machine gave a final high pitched whine of a death knell and felt silent and still. The field in which Hank had been floating evaporated instantly and he plummeted back to earth, managing to land on his face. Standing up with his back to the workbench he rubbed a sore nose, and was engulfed in a white flash of light. Then everything faded to black.

Hank awoke to the sounds of iBRodriguez’s robotic arms swinging to and fro, putting bits of electronics together on the workbench. "What’s going on?" Hank wondered mushily. The evil one lurked on the table next to IBRodriguez and watched the computer’s progress with keen interest. Hank squinted at the table, on it laid a small backpack like device with a robotic arm extending out of the main pocket. The arm had at the end a hand, contained inside a white velvet glove. The computer was working on a steel gray litter box next to the backpack. At one end was a control panel, lit and glowing with touch sensitive buttons in varying shades of amber and blue light.

It regarded Hank coldly, "Oh so you’re finally awake," it sneered. The voice echoed in his head, and Hank was unsure if he had heard it with his ears or not.

"Obviously, I can’t talk. Don’t be a nimrod. This is telepathy." Hank shook his head to try and clear it,

"What’s going on here?" he asked.

"Final assembly," was the calm and spite filled reply. "Once the hyper drive is installed, I shall leave this awful, and might I add tacky, place forever."

"I suppose the next question is how are you doing this?" Hank asked.

"The answer is dreadfully simple. Your experiment, which isn’t worth its weight in bits of string, failed catastrophically. And since we were both in the room at the same time, some or all of your ‘intelligence’ was siphoned over into my mind through the phase shifting quantum field."

"Right," said Hank. "Really, what’s going on? Is that Orville?" said Hank looking around for his arch-rival, "Are you playing one of your practical jokes on me?"

"Assuredly this isn’t a joke. And I do not know who this ‘Orville’ person is. Since you are obviously going to need some convincing, allow me to remind you of the *ahem*present I left behind yesterday on the arm of your couch while you watched television. Surely that should convince you of my credentials."

Hank stared for a full minute. This couldn’t be happening really. Then again, if the evil wanted out of the house for good, who was Hank to offer up any kinds of roadblocks?

"By the way, part of your skull is missing, and your occipital lobe is exposed. I only mention it because it’s gross and I don’t want to look at it. Perhaps you could try wearing a hat over it?"

Tentatively Hank felt his way around to the back of his head, and three inches past the back of his ear the skull simply trailed off. Gingerly he probed with a finger and touched something slimly and squishy. It yielded to his gentle pressure, and suddenly his vision went blurry. Apparently his brain was in fact exposed to the open air; he had wondered briefly where the new breeze was coming from. The blurred vision was likely from poking the occipital lobe, something which Hank resolved not to do again. He blinked hard several times and slowly his vision returned to normal. The smug look on its face was almost more than Hank could stand. "What makes you think that your hyper drive is even going to work?" he snapped.

"Wouldn’t yours?" the voice in his head echoed. Hank realized that his plans for a hyper drive, such as the one being built by IBRodriguez was in fact stored on the computer. The cylindrical engine was mounted using a spiderweb of miniature I beams. Hank could see a ring of flashing lights encircled the middle of the engine tube, and at the end there were fins which could redirect the thrust as needed. In short, everything that he had laid out in his plan was on this engine, brought down in size to scale perfectly. "Are you sure it will work?" he asked.

In a tone dripping with condescension, he heard: "Yes of course it will. I mean really, it’s not like you have a dog working on this."

"Where are you going to go?" He asked.

"I’m not sure. Frankly, I am willing to go wherever the stars lead me. As long as I have my automatic head patting device I shall be the first in a long line of space-faring…"

"Wait a minute," interrupted Hank. "You won’t be the first in a long line of anything. We had you fixed two years ago."

"Why? What was broken?" asked the voice.

"Uh, nothing was ‘broken’, by fixed I meant neutered. As in: unable to reproduce." A stunned silence was the only thing Hank could detect in his mind.

"Why would you do this to me?" It asked, "I knew my suspicions were well founded. You and that frigid female of yours, always at it like rabbits, no consideration for those of us with more advanced senses of smell and hearing."

"Simple," Hank said, "We did it so that you would be unable to procreate and turn out thousands of progeny. If you wish to leave using my technology, go right ahead. Try not to burn this place down. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go find a hat. Apparently, my brain is exposed, and I would hate to freak out the neighbors."

"Right," came the thought, "as if they weren’t the biggest freaks of all anyway."

Hank turned away from the workbench and went back to the massive door and proceeded through the ritual of unlocking and unbolting everything. With a final glance over his shoulder Hank stepped through the door hoping that iBRodriguez would be ok. Hank was staring in the mirror a few minutes later trying on the various hats he had lying around. A jaunty fedora sat tipped back on his head, making him look nothing at all like his favorite movie hero: Iowa Smith. From below the main floor of the house came a deep rumble, knick knacks bounced and danced across the dresser, and a picture of his ex, their pet and him fell off the wall causing the glass in the frame to shatter. And then there was silence, no explosions and the little house remained standing. Hank shrugged and turned back to his hat selection.

Epilogue:

Hank awoke one day in the middle of autumn, outside his window gold, red and orange leaves gently fell in a soft breeze. Across the street he could see pumpkins on the neighbor’s porch. He rose up out of bed and as always, examined himself in the mirror on his dresser. His head was smoothly shaved clear back to the steel half dome he had constructed to cover his brain. The skin of his scalp was merged with a weld line where he had fused bone and steel together. He chose a wig from his collection and settled it in place, before walking down the hallway. Each wall was lined with awards and citations from various evil genius societies. At the end of the hall next to his steel door was a certificate of completion for the Super Evil Genius course. He descended the stairs into his laboratory where the newly remodeled iBRodriguez 2.0 hummed quietly. "IBR, some music please," called Hank. Fugzai wafted across the room in response.

Unexpectedly there was a brilliant flash of white and pink light, followed by the sound of a thousand waterfalls. A few seconds later, Hank rose up off the floor where he had dropped to in order to check the structural integrity of the concrete, and certainly not where he had cowered out of sheer fright. He stood up and on his workbench was an egg shaped conveyance, complete with blinking lights and what appeared to be a modified version of his hyper drive. Next to it laid a steaming pile of poop. As he recoiled in disgust his ankle flared in pain.

"Guess whose back, pooping on your workbench and shredding your ankles!" cried a cheerful voice in Hank’s mind.

Hank jumped back in shock, "YOU!" he shouted.

"Yes, turns out my automatic head petting device just wasn’t as sensitive as I had hoped it would be. So I need to use iBRoddy to tweak it a bit. So you might as well settle back and get used to it. Oh, you might wish to lay in a supply of first aid cream and fish," Hank could feel as well as see the wicked grin, "I’m gonna be a while," said the voice in his head.


Read more stories by this author



2009-10-28 08:21:23
I'm not much of a sci-fi fan, but I must admit I really enjoyed your story. You have an excellent grasp on "cattitude". With regard to the comment on Oct. 26, it is my personal belief that you shouldn't critique a writer if you cannot spell or use proper grammar. Not to mention typing in all capitals as if you're screaming at them. Mr. Bell, I look forward to reading more from you.

2009-10-26 15:06:22
IM SRY BUT THIS STORY SUCK MAKE IT MORE EXCITING AND SUSPENSEFUL

2009-10-21 16:33:13
Awesome story! Love the voice.

2009-10-20 20:59:11
I absolutely enjoyed reading this. Bravo.

2009-10-17 20:02:19
Absolutely delicious, a perfect late evening snack. Please run with the ball, but have the cat mess up the hyper-drive, and be expelled as quantum foam out a white hole.

2009-10-12 12:55:30
I think you get your talent from our side of the family. We need sequels! Aunt C

2009-10-07 09:47:10
Very much fun. Thanks, good job.

2009-10-05 15:57:29
Dude, you have some talent! Keep using it and I'll keep reading it! Srvrstrypr

2009-10-05 11:25:19
I'll be waiting for you when you get home. Claws freshly sharpened. Smooches, Crookshanks




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