The Quantum Mechanic

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Yesterday was a day of firsts. The first Lamborghini I ever towed. First crime I committed. And the first time I was held hostage by a beautiful woman. That’s what I told the cops, anyway.

It started with a call from dispatch about 9:00. Thirty minutes later I parked my tow truck next to a Lamborghini languishing on the side of the road near Josephson Junction. It was sunburst metallic orange with custom titanium rollers and a nine-foot hood. Honey-sweet.

I remember standing there looking at the car with my mouth hanging open. The fly door retracted without making a sound and I whistled. Couldn’t help it. It was a marvel of engineering. A set of long legs stretched out door, with black boots up to the thighs. She wore a leather skirt no bigger than my tool belt, and blonde hair curled around her chin.

“See something you like?” she said, and I could feel my face blush. She lit a cherry cheroot, blew a puff of smoke at me, and pointed to the car. “It’s out of gas.”

I had to laugh.

“No, Miss, this car runs on a mini-cern.” She frowned a little, so I explained, “It’s a quantum engine with a collider. No gas involved.”

She shrugged, “So load it up with neutrons or something.”

“I’ll have to tow it to the shop,” I told her. And it was a decision I’d regret later.

*************************

Ben was waiting in the lift bay when we pulled in. We stepped out of the truck and Ben whistled low. Then he saw the Lamborghini.

She didn’t waste any time. Flirted shamelessly with Ben until he was a pile of putty in her hands. She slung an arm around Ben’s neck and pointed at me, “Mikey says it’s out of gas.”

Ben grinned. “He’s just kidding you. Mike’s the best mechanic in the state. He knows this kind of accelerator can only be emptied with a special chamber. Right over here we’ve got the only Hadron in the…”

“Shut up, Ben,” I said. “Help me get this car unloaded.”

I fiddled around for a while, running diagnostics and checking all the components. Ben was getting in my way so I told him to keep her company in the customer lounge.

“You want me to talk with Bonnette? Like a date?” He looked a little panicked. She definitely outclassed him by a factor of ten.

I smiled, “No pressure, Ben.”

A little while later I ambled into the lounge, wiping my hands on a shop rag. Bonnette was sitting on Ben’s lap, stroking his hair, and he had a gooey expression on his face.

“It’s out of helm,” I said flatly.

Ben jerked upright. “Out of helm! What do you mean? The safety is off?”

“Yup.”

“That’s a federal crime!” He turned to Bonnette for an explanation.

She calmly opened her purse, pulled out a long stainless thimble and fixed it on an index finger. “Know what this is?” she asked Ben, holding up her finger.

“Is that a Blanker? I’ve never seen one up close…”

Before I had time to react, she touched the thimble to the tip of his nose and Ben slumped over in the chair, lights-out cold.

“I wish you hadn’t done that,” I said, looking at his limp body.

Bonnette gave a crooked grin. “He’ll be alright. It was only a tap.” Then she waggled the Blanker in my face. “Get a move on, Mike. I need to scoot.”

*************************

It took Ben about an hour to wake up. His eyes fluttered and he tried hard to focus on my face. “Mom?”

I sighed. “No, Ben. It’s me.”

He started flailing around in the armchair so I told him to be quiet and watch the TV for a while.

The big screen in the customer lounge was flashing schematics of a sunburst-orange Lamborghini. Stern-looking officials barked warnings against harboring a fugitive. Then they showed a picture of Bonnette, with blonde hair curled around her chin, and a long list of crimes.

“Hey…” Ben said, finally alert. “Hey!”

“Yeah, that’s her.” I leaned on the pole in center of the lounge, “You missed out. She just left.”

“Geez, Mike! Why are you standing there? Go call the cops!”

I held up my hands, handcuffed around the pole.

“Oh!”

I could practically see the thoughts forming in his head.

“Damn, Mike, without that helm safety on...I mean if she gets up to…wow! She could slipstream right off the timeline!”

“That’s right, Ben,” I nodded. “That’s why it’s a crime to disable the helm controls. Or even work on a car with the safety off.”

The news showed a fleet of police cruisers racing toward Josephson Junction. “They’ll never catch her,” Ben moaned. “That car will out-run everything they’ve got.”

An overhead drone had a camera on the Lamborghini and I could see a pool of fluorescent green light forming under the carriage. First stage to slipstream.

“We’ll be charged as accessories. They’ll give us fifty years,” Ben was starting to whimper and I couldn’t help but chuckle.

“It’s not funny,” he wailed. “Look, there’s second stage forming! She’s getting ready to escape the timeline.”

“Go check the regulator, Ben.” I pointed my shackled hands toward a panel blinking in the hallway.

“What, right now?” He looked at me quizzically.

“Right now.”

Ben reluctantly went to the panel. He came running back, eyes wide. “Why is the Hadron chamber full?”

I grinned.

“You emptied the mini-cern accelerator, didn’t you?” Ben said with admiration.

“Yep. And she just ran out of gas.”

A drone camera showed the orange car slowing to a stop.

*************************

It took Ben a week of thinking before he finally asked the question any good mechanic would want to know: “Hey, why did that Lamborghini stall in the first place?”

“Simple. The parking brake was on.”

Ben nodded thoughtfully. “So, you knew all along.”

About the Author: 
Business consultant, dot-com entrepreneur, and antiques dealer. Between it all, Richena most enjoys the thrills and chills of writing short story fiction.

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Quantum Theories

M is for ... Many Worlds Theory

Some researchers think the best way to explain the strange characteristics of the quantum world is to allow that each quantum event creates a new universe.

L is for ... Light

We used to believe light was a wave, then we discovered it had the properties of a particle that we call a photon. Now we know it, like all elementary quantum objects, is both a wave and a particle!

S is for ... Schrödinger’s Cat

A hypothetical experiment in which a cat kept in a closed box can be alive and dead at the same time – as long as nobody lifts the lid to take a look.

J is for ... Josephson Junction

This is a narrow constriction in a ring of superconductor. Current can only move around the ring because of quantum laws; the apparatus provides a neat way to investigate the properties of quantum mechanics.

P is for ... Planck's Constant

This is one of the universal constants of nature, and relates the energy of a single quantum of radiation to its frequency. It is central to quantum theory and appears in many important formulae, including the Schrödinger Equation.

L is for ... Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

At CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, this machine is smashing apart particles in order to discover their constituent parts and the quantum laws that govern their behaviour.

I is for ... Information

Many researchers working in quantum theory believe that information is the most fundamental building block of reality.

G is for ... Gravity

Our best theory of gravity no longer belongs to Isaac Newton. It’s Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. There’s just one problem: it is incompatible with quantum theory. The effort to tie the two together provides the greatest challenge to physics in the 21st century.

O is for ... Objective reality

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Q is for ... Qubit

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Y is for ... Young's Double Slit Experiment

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H is for ... Hawking Radiation

In 1975, Stephen Hawking showed that the principles of quantum mechanics would mean that a black hole emits a slow stream of particles and would eventually evaporate.

D is for ... Decoherence

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I is for ... Interferometer

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S is for ... Schrödinger Equation

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A is for ... Alice and Bob

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R is for ... Reality

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S is for ... Superposition

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E is for ... Entanglement

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C is for ... Cryptography

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K is for ... Kaon

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V is for ... Virtual particles

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B is for ... Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC)

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B is for ... Bell's Theorem

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N is for ... Nonlocality

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X is for ... X-ray

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F is for ... Free Will

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W is for ... Wavefunction

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A is for ... Act of observation

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U is for ... Uncertainty Principle

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Q is for ... Quantum biology

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A is for ... Atom

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H is for ... Hidden Variables

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T is for ... Teleportation

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T is for ... Tunnelling

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G is for ... Gluon

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W is for ... Wave-particle duality

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D is for ... Dice

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R is for ... Randomness

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U is for ... Universe

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P is for ... Probability

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M is for ... Multiverse

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Z is for ... Zero-point energy

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C is for ... Computing

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