July 17, 2019

Free Fiction Friday: A Standard of Deviation Part 2

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Ready for more quantum entanglement galaxy hopping adventure? The let’s jump right in to Chapter 2. Remember to start back with last week’s Chapter 1 of A Standard of Deviation, and you can read the story in its entirety, and other original tales of sci-fi by yours truly as well.

 

A Standard of Deviation

by

David A. Dickinson

Chapter 2

 

And that’s where I come in. Couriers like me bring the Standard around, the engineers read it, and the primacy of Earth’s exploitation of the galaxy stays intact. I might even discover a fascinating (to me, anyway) new tale of mythology or artistic flourish from a forgotten race, and I always make sure to take and bring back a picture of the host star of New Seattle for Lila. That is, if I can manage to find it in the sky for her.

I do these runs once every few years at deliberately randomized intervals as the Directorate “calls me up.” These runs are always unannounced due to the sensitive nature of the job, which steams my boss to no end, although the Library is handsomely rewarded for my absence. You might ask yourself just why a humble and indefensible Librarian 3rd Class is entrusted with carrying the fate of a galactic civilization in her briefcase; after all, the business etiquette of humanity has assured that we have no small number of enemies in and outside of the Confederation. In fact, early on in its history, humanity did indeed move the Standard from transport site to transport site throughout the galaxy with great fanfare and security. This, however, came at an enormous cost in defense and lost revenue, as wars to capture or destroy the Standard were sparked in its wake. Some human societies even worship the Standard as divine, which just shows how disconnected some sects of humanity have become from reality, I guess. The lithium contained within the Standard is the same kind you’d find in your medicine cabinet and is absolutely normal, except for the fact that the spin state of every atom within is known to a high degree of precision. This, in turn, makes instantaneous transport across interstellar distances possible. Perhaps the worst an alien species could do is capture or destroy the Standard, forcing the Terran government to manufacture a new one and reinstall synchronized copies of the Standard across the galaxy at great cost before the deployed units go out of synchronization. Perhaps an enemy agency could even unfurl the knowledge of how to construct one, but that would take inside knowledge of quantum mechanics. For whatever reason, humans seem to have been the only species that the galaxy has produced thus far that have the smarts to unlock quantum entanglement technology. Perhaps it’s a unique combination of our predator ancestors combined with our curiosity and dexterity. Maybe one race arises in every galaxy that installs portals at sub-light speeds, and then swiftly monopolizes its tiny pond. I think it’s unfortunate, sometimes, that other species manage to possess a greater degree of nobility, beauty, or sophistication than humanity, but not our business savvy.

But galactic politics are no place for a Librarian 3rd Class. I simply told my irate boss before embarking on this run that I’d pick up on the restoring of the new Antarean exhibit wing at the Repository when I returned. He simply gave me his usual response alluding to not expecting to have a job when I came back, but we both knew that this was an empty threat because of the handsome stipend that my courier duties entailed. I then told Lila that I was departing on another Outer Spur research run, which prompted the typical “You hot librarian gals sure do get around the cosmos,” remark, but it wasn’t anything that a bit of pre-departure carnal congress couldn’t cure. Again, Lila hadn’t revealed her diagnosis to me yet, and I dismissed the shiver she had occasionally up her left side as the damp chill that always permeated New Seattle.

As we both lay one night underneath the crimson light of New Seattle’s distant red dwarf companion, I thought and wondered about people like Lila on the Local Group worlds and what a curious dichotomy now existed in the cosmos. Here there where worlds of peace and plenty, worlds where everyone could live up to their potential and strife was virtually unknown. But only those who journeyed out to the Rim Worlds at the edge of the galactic habitable zone saw the terrible price incurred on other, less fortunate civilizations. No one saw the exploitation and the wars that humanity had brought to those unlucky enough to make first contact with us. Travel via quantum entanglement had made this sort of commerce profitable, as raw materials, energy, and the cultural debris of far-flung worlds was accumulated by humanity in vast quantities. And this was all because many of these species were simply curious about the cosmos and desperately lonely and willing to make first contact, just as we once were…

But I try not to let such thoughts bog me down on the start of a new courier run. As my grandfather used to say, “It’s a big universe, but it doesn’t have room for negativity.” I always thought instead of the wonderful and bizarre species I would once again get the privilege to visit while I queued up to the quantum portal on New Seattle. As ever, my stoic minder named Quertzl wasn’t far behind… I knew that whatever system I was in, he would be following my activities from a distance, partially for my protection, but also to keep tabs on what I was doing.  I made the best of the situation by making a point of joking with Quertzl (or QWERTY as I liked to call him, a play on the old typeface) every time I saw him. “Morning, QWERTY… take your lithium today?” I’d say, and he’d just pop me a brief nervous glance.

Going through a quantum portal is quick, painless, and absolutely disorienting if you’ve never traveled hundreds of light years instantaneously before. I know some folks who flat out refuse to do it. And yes, it is a discomforting thought that your body is scanned, destroyed, and reassembled from entirely different atoms on the other end. You are not ‘you’ in a physical sense when you emerge on the exit end. The scanning process is, however, carried out to such a level of precision that every flowing blood cell, every triple-bonded carbon atom, every flashing neuron and atom within you is put exactly back in its place. I can attest that when I arrive back at my apartment on New Seattle after a week’s worth of quantum jumping, I remember where I put the keys to the turbo-car, or to pick up some almond milk for Lila on the way home from the Portal Station. Lila likes to joke that she gets a brand-new spousal unit every time I return, but we both realize that when we have our first argument about having my eggs scrambled or fried, or watching retro-police procedural flicks, it’s still me.

to be continued…

Be sure to read A Standard of Deviation and other original works of fiction by David Dickinson in their entirety.

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